Opening a new chapter of charges against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, this time for attempting to subvert the judicial process, the noted danseuse and social activist Mallika Sarabhai claimed that the Chief Minister had “bribed” her lawyers to derail her Public Interest Litigation petition before the Supreme Court on the 2002 communal riots in the State.
Ms. Sarabhai told a hurriedly convened media conference on Sunday that an affidavit filed by the retired Additional Director-General of Police, R.B. Shreekumar, before the G.T. Nanavati–Akshay Mehta judicial inquiry commission last week contained details of Mr. Modi's “operations” to bribe her lawyers with Rs. 10 lakh to derail the PIL.
Ms. Sarabhai also circulated to the media copies of the “affidavit” containing the damaging details against Mr. Modi. Mr. Shreekumar, however, promptly denied the copies circulated by Ms. Sarabhai as being authentic, but accepted a part of the contents of Ms. Sarabhai's claimed and admitted that he did hand over Rs. 10 lakh to his then deputy, Sanjiv Bhatt, as told by the Chief Minister. He said he had submitted the affidavit, marked as “secret,” to the commission marked and Ms Sarabhai or anyone else could not have access to it. Ms. Sarabhai, however, was not available to clarify.
Soon after the riot massacres, Ms. Sarabhai had filed a PIL petition in the Supreme Court in April, 2002, demanding action against Mr. Modi, accusing him and his State government's of complicity.
Quoting from what she claimed to be Mr. Shreekumar's affidavit, Ms. Sarabhai said when the Chief Minister came to know about her PIL petition, he had called the then Chief of the State Intelligence Bureau (SIB), Mr. Shreekumar, and Mr. Bhatt, who was his deputy in the SIB then, and asked them if they were aware about her PIL.
When Mr. Shreekumar replied in the negative, Mr. Modi told the police officers that the PIL was “very damaging for the State government” and asked the SIB to chief to arrange for Rs. 10 lakh from the SIB's secret fund to bribe her lawyers to delay the PIL before the court. When Mr. Shreekumar informed the Chief Minister that there was no money in the “secret fund,” Mr. Modi told him that he would ask the Chief Secretary to arrange for the money, which he should hand it over to Mr. Bhatt for paying the lawyers. “Mr. Bhatt knows about details what is to be done with it,” Mr. Modi told Mr. Shreekumar.
Mr. Shreekumar then went to the then State Director-General of Police, K. Chakravarthi, and demanded a written order on the issue. “Some time later Mr. Chakravarthi called up Mr. Shreekumar and told him that no written orders were necessary. The money had been arranged and he [Mr. Shreekumar] was only required to sign a receipt and record it in the register that the transaction has taken place.” He also claimed that the noting to this effect in the relevant register could still be found.
Ms. Sarabhai claimed that the money was handed over to Mr. Bhatt, who in turn gave it to a trusted lieutenant of the Chief Minister, Amit Shah, who later became the Minister of State for Home. Ms. Sarabhai claimed that Mr. Shah had handed over the money to Tushar Mehta, who was deputy to her lawyer, Krishnakant Vakharia.
“The clear instructions given to the lawyer was that he should pass on every bit of information about the preparations for the PIL so that the government lawyer is ready to counter every move and delay the proceedings before the Supreme Court as much as possible,” she said.
Mr. Bhatt, the controversial IPS officer who created a flutter by submitting an affidavit before the Supreme Court earlier this year alleging Mr. Modi of having “directed” the police then to “allow the Hindus to vent out their anger” during his cross-examinations before the Nanavati–Mehta commission, a couple of months ago had referred to some “attempts to subvert Ms. Sarabhai's PIL.” He had also stated that Mr. Shreekumar had more knowledge about the “attempt.”
Ms. Sarabhai said following Mr. Bhatt's deposition, she had approached the Commission for permission to cross examine the IPS officer. But the commission refused her permission. Later she wrote to the commission to ask Mr. Shreekumar file an affidavit on the issue and accordingly the retired ADGP filed it, his eighth before the commission so far, Ms. Sarabhai said.
“What has been revealed in Mr. Shreekumar's affidavit is not only very shocking, it also show a criminal activity and definite attempt on the part of the Chief Minister to derail the process of law amounting to contempt of the Supreme Court,” Ms. Sarabhai alleged.