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Monday, April 12, 2021

Bhushans: Court again rejects police plea to close case, says probe more

After going through the report, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Pankaj Sharma said it appears that “the investigation has not been carried out in terms” of the court’s previous “order dated 25.01.2012 wherein police was directed to investigate the matter on nine points”.

Written by Ananthakrishnan G , Anand Mohan J | New Delhi |
Updated: April 4, 2021 8:38:50 am
Shanti Bhushan

For the second time in nine years, a Delhi court has rejected a Delhi Police request to close a 2011 case regarding an audio CD and directed it to investigate the CD contents again.

The case relates to a purported phone conversation between former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan, SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh (who passed away last year) in which a voice, allegedly that of Bhushan, refers to his lawyer-son Prashant Bhushan who can “manage… very well” and to a then Supreme Court judge.

The re-investigation direction came on January 28 this year. In its April 2014 “untrace report”, the Special Cell of Delhi Police had said though Shanti Bhushan “suspected that “Amar Singh “could be behind the fabrication and circulation of the audio CD to malign his reputation” and that its circulation among the media “was intended as an attempt to force him to leave the joint drafting committee for the Jan Lokpal Bill, since Mr Kapil Sibal and Sh P Chidambaram, the Union Ministers, were against his participation as co-chairman of the drafting committee… he could not put forward any worthwhile evidence in support of his allegations against… Chidambaram… Sibal and… Singh except oral allegations”.

“It is not correct to proceed against anyone only on the basis of presumptions and without any substantial and corroborative evidence. Hence this case is being filed as untraced for want of any sufficient evidence,” police said in its report.

Police also cited a CFSL Delhi report which said that contents of the CD had not been copied from the Amar Singh tapes that did the rounds following alleged tapping of his phone in 2005-06 – thereby rejecting a claim made by Prashant Bhushan.

After going through the report, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Pankaj Sharma said it appears that “the investigation has not been carried out in terms” of the court’s previous “order dated 25.01.2012 wherein police was directed to investigate the matter on nine points”.

The CMM “further directed” the probe officer “to investigate the contents of the CD in question and file a report”. Although Shanti Bhushan’s counsel did not oppose the police request to accept the “untrace report” since Amar Singh was already dead, the court passed its order.

The case was registered on April 15, 2011 following a complaint by Shanti Bhushan that the CD appeared to have been “fabricated to malign me” and that its contents were “defamatory”.

The contents of the audio CD was first reported by The Indian Express – it was received at the office of The Indian Express on April 13, 2011, in an unsigned envelope, without address of the sender, and the newspaper subsequently sent it to the Chief Justice of India.

The Bhushans, who were at that time non-government representatives in a panel constituted to draft the Lokpal Bill following a fast by social activist Anna Hazare, denied that the phone conversation ever took place and called it a “conspiracy” to weaken the Anna movement.

Prashant Bhushan also suggested that it could have been part of attempts to interfere in the judicial process in two cases in which he was the petitioner.

On July 27, 2011, the Special Cell had filed a cancellation report with the CMM Tis Hazari stating that though the “CD in question is not doctored/tampered with” but the “allegations… that the CD has been fabricated in order to malign him (Shanti Bhushan) could not be substantiated and hence the offence of forgery u/s 469 IPC was not made out”.

The investigators relied on a report of the CFSL, Delhi and Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) as well as statement of Amar Singh to arrive at this conclusion.

In his statement in July 2011, Singh told police that “few years back, Shanti Bhushan had visited him from Hotel Taj Man Singh. Sh. Virendra Bhatia, the then Advocate General of UP Government, was also present with him. During discussion regarding some case of Sh. Mulayam Singh Yadav pending in the Allahabad High Court, (may be case of defection against Sh. Mulayam Singh Yadav), Sh. Shanti Bhushan wanted to talk to Sh. Mulayam Singh Yadav. He (Amar Singh) called Sh. Mulayam Singh Yadav from the land line number of his residence and left the room after handing over the receiver of the phone to Sh. Shanti Bhushan, hence he did not listen the conversation between them”.

Police said Singh also “confirmed part of the conversation taken place between him and Sh. Mulayam Singh Yadav”.

Two protest petitions, opposing the cancellation plea, were filed – one by Shanti Bhushan and another by two lawyers. Shanti Bhushan said opinions given by an expert in the US and another by Hyderabad-based Truth Labs had “clearly found the conversation in CD to be ‘doctored’.” In the Truth Labs examination, some sentences, he said, “were found verbatim copied from” the Amar Singh tapes and that “the copies thereof (of these two reports) were supplied to the investigating agency, but the said opinions were withheld in the final (cancellation) report”.

After hearing the protest petitions, the court, on January 25, 2012, refused to accept the cancellation report and sent the case back for further probe on nine grounds including the source of the CD, who prepared and circulated it, date and time of its preparation, motive behind its creation.

Police obtained voice samples of Singh, Yadav and Shanti Bhushan and sent them to CFSL Delhi which “opined that voices contained in the CD in question were the probable voices of” the trio.

Virendra Bhatia could not be examined because he had passed away in 2010.

When The Sunday Express sought his comments on the court order for further probe, Shanti Bhushan blamed Amar Singh and said “the police were not interested in properly investigating… The CD came when Anna nominated me and Prashant (Bhushan) to the drafting committee.”

“They should have properly investigated because it was quite clear that this was a fabricated CD. Therefore, who were the parties in the conspiracy for the fabrication of the CD was to be found out by the police…They wanted to destroy my reputation by manufacturing a false CD,” he said, adding that the “court should transfer the investigation to CBI”.

Prashant Bhushan said: “The Truth Labs had examined the two tapes and had come to the conclusion that Mulayam Singh’s voice had been lifted from the Amar Singh tapes. Clearly, this particular tape, this CD was fabricated. Because Amar Singh’s voice is also there in it, therefore Amar Singh had to be complicit in fabricating it. Police did not do a proper job. That is why they are again and again being asked to reinvestigate.”

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