As former Home Secretary G K Pillai again targeted his former boss P Chidambaram, who was Union Home Minister when the UPA government changed its affidavit in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case, the BJP Tuesday attacked the Congress brass and urged the government to investigate “the entire flip-flop” on the case.
Pillai’s statements on “luring” the alleged Lashkar-e-Toiba group to Gujarat also prompted Vrinda Grover, lawyer for Ishrat’s mother, to demand that the former Home Secretary be made a prosecution witness since his remarks backed the CBI finding that the encounter had been faked.
Addressing a press conference at the BJP office, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said: “Enough suspicious circumstances have arisen from the statements of the Home Secretary, confirmed by the then Under Secretary, that the decision was taken by Mr Chidambaram by bypassing them, by changing the complete complexion (of the case).”
He also alleged that Chidambaram had done so at the behest of the Congress high command.
The UPA government had filed two affidavits in response to a petition filed in the Gujarat High Court by the kin of Javed Shaikh alias Pranesh Pillai, one of the men killed with Mumbra woman Ishrat Jahan on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. In the revised affidavit, references to Ishrat’s alleged Lashkar links were removed.
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Not ruling out a judicial probe in the matter, Prasad said: “There was a consistent campaign against Mr Modi (Narendra Modi was Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2004) that he needs to be framed, Amit Shah (then Gujarat’s Home Minister) needs to be framed by hook or by by crook. And the entire government machinery was abused. BJP demands that the Government of India investigate this. We are demanding that a fair inquiry be done on the entire flip flop on the Ishrat Jahan case.”
Last week, Pillai told Times Now that a Lashkar group, of which Jahan was an alleged member, was lured by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) to Gujarat in 2004 before being gunned down, allegedly in a fake encounter. He claimed there was never any discussion among officials in the Home Ministry about altering the Centre’s earlier affidavit in the case.
Pillai later said: “It was done by the minister himself. You will have to ask the minister why he changed it, because none of us changed it.”
On Monday, Chidambaram said Pillai was “equally responsible” for the second affidavit which was an “absolutely correct affidavit”, that he as a minister accepted responsibility for it.
Also on Tuesday, R V S Mani, who was Under Secretary in the Home Ministry and had filed the two affidavits, in an interview to Times Now, repeated allegations he had levelled in July 2013 — and reported by The Indian Express then — that he had been coerced by the CBI to sign statements to project the encounter killing as fake.
The Indian Express had reported that Mani had also lodged a complaint against a Gujarat IPS officer who was part of the CBI probe into the encounter. He had said his statements to CBI should be recorded in the presence of the chief vigilance officer or his authorised representative or a lawyer.
Pillai’s statements may give the case a new legal twist.
Vrinda Grover, lawyer for Ishrat Jahan’s mother Shamima Kausar, told The Indian Express that Pillai should be made a prosecution witness as he was supporting the CBI case which alleged that Ishrat was killed in a fake encounter after Gujarat police and IB entered into a conspiracy.
“Pillai should be made a prosecution witness. His statement supports the prosecution case that the encounter was fake. He has publicly come out in the open saying he has some information about the case. He is practically saying that this was a fake encounter,” Grover said.
She said she did not want to join “the political circus” going on in Ishrat’s name and wanted to see how the government responds to the developments before initiating legal action.
“We want to see if the Home Ministry is ready to reopen the case in the light of a former Home Secretary’s statement that the encounter was fake. We will see their response and then take the next step,” she said.
In the interview to Times Now, Pillai said: “It was a very successful intelligence operation… we managed to entice the LeT to send their shooters to India and were able to monitor their activities in India and to, in one sense, catch them. It was a very planned operation… something intelligence agencies around the world do.”
“Yes, it was a trap and it was a very successful operation… you are using the sources of LeT, people who think they are LeT, to be able to pass on information. It is always better to know when your enemy is coming in rather than wait for collateral intelligence where someone plans something without your knowledge.”
Grover said Pillai had only corroborated the CBI chargesheet in the case. “It is even in the CBI chargesheet that two among the group were LeT terrorists. The IB had been tracking one of them. They had been picked up earlier and, thereafter, Javed and Ishrat were picked up. Once you have people in your custody… chargesheet talks about even the farmhouses where they were kept. Even after that, you are killing them.”
The CBI filed a chargesheet against seven police officers in the case. All are out on bail now. The CBI request for sanction to prosecute four IB officers in the case was rejected by the Home Ministry last June. Since then, the case has not moved forward.