Within the next few days, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is expected to file its supplementary charge-sheet on the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case. The prime charge-sheet in this case had been filed earlier. The event occurred in 2004. A short while later in 2005, another alleged fake encounter involving Sohrabuddin Sheikh took place. Over a score of police officers are in jail as accused in these fake encounter crimes. The most senior among them is DG Vanzara, who until his arrest was reputed to be a strong favourite of the Gujarat government and Mr Narendra Modi personally. During the period of these fake encounters being probed by the CBI, Mr Narendra Modi as Chief Minister (CM) also held the Home portfolio. Mr Amit Shah was his Minister of State (MOS) Home. Mr Shah is already the prime accused in the Sohrabuddin case and is presently on bail and in charge of the BJP&’s Uttar Pradesh poll campaign. It might be recalled that in 2007 during the Gujarat Assembly poll, media reports suggested Mr Modi had declared during a campaign speech that if the police had to kill Sohrabuddin Sheikh, they did not need the permission of Mrs Sonia Gandhi.
The supplementary charge-sheet on the Ishrat Jahan case was filed after DG Vanzara wrote a controversial letter to the Gujarat government, alleging that all the policemen were wrongfully jailed because they had merely carried out the orders of their political masters. After that letter was released, the CBI questioned Mr Amit Shah for his role during the fake encounters. Mr Shah denied to the CBI any knowledge of police activities related to the fake encounters. However, Vanzara in his controversial and highly publicised letter to the Gujarat government, had written that if the police officers deserved arrest for the fake encounters, then the CBI should “arrest the policy formulators also as we, being field officers, have simply implemented the conscious policy of this government which was inspiring, guiding and monitoring our actions from very close quarters”. Original records revealed that Mr Shah had made 331 telephone calls to Vanzara and other police officers during the period of the fake encounters that are being probed. This high degree of interaction by a minister with police officers on duty has raised many eyebrows. Mr Shah reportedly did not deny that he had made the phone calls to the police officers, but he described these as part of his routine duties as the MOS Home. He stuck to his version that he had been totally ignorant of police role in fake encounters.
The matter is further complicated by a meeting held in 2011 by senior Gujarat officials, who allegedly discussed ways and means to derail and obstruct investigation in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case. Among the nine members present in the meeting was not only the defence lawyer of the accused but also the acting Attorney General of the Gujarat government! Also present in the meeting was Mr Girish Murmu, the Secretary personally attached to Gujarat CM Narendra Modi. The allegation of the attempted obstruction to the probe has been backed by taped conversation during the meeting on two pen drives, delivered to the CBI by one of the members present, Mr GL Singhal.
The supplementary charge-sheet on the Ishrat Jahan case is being watched closely to see if Mr Amit Shah is mentioned in it. If he is mentioned in the charge-sheet, the court would be expected to question him. In that event, the court would have to question and probe further to decide whose version is truthful – that of DG Vanzara or of Mr Amit Shah. The result of the court&’s decision could affect Mr Amit Shah&’s future. The course of Mr Shah&’s future could affect the poll results of UP in 2014. The results of the UP poll could affect the prime ministerial prospects of Mr Narendra Modi. That is why the supplementary charge-sheet will be watched carefully. The BJP accusation that the CBI is being misused by the UPA government to nail the opposition would be widely accepted. But that is how all governments conduct affairs. The UPA government&’s motives will be deemed irrelevant by the public which is used to the prevalent political culture. What the public would want to know is regardless of the government&’s motivation whether the charges against Mr Amit Shah are valid or not.
The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist. He blogs at www.rajinderpuri.wordpress.com