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I have been vindicated: Chidambaram

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The news report completely vindicated the position that he had taken on the two affidavits, he says.

Congress leader and former Home Minister P. Chidambaram has accused the NDA government of creating a “fake controversy” relating to two affidavits filed in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case, and preparing a “doctored” report on the documents that went missing from the Home Ministry in 2009-10.

He was reacting to a report in The Indian Express that suggested that the officer investigating the case of the missing documents had “tutored” a witness. Mr. Chidambaram, in a statement, said the NDA government’s designs had been comprehensively exposed. “The moral of the story is that even a doctored report [of an Inquiry Officer] cannot hide the truth. The real issue is whether Ishrat Jahan and three others were killed in a genuine encounter or a fake encounter. Only the trial of the case, pending since July 2013, will bring out the truth.”

The newspaper report alleged that B.K. Prasad, the Union Home Ministry official who headed the probe into the “missing documents” in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case, told a witness the questions he would be asking and suggested the answer he should give: that he had not seen any of the missing documents. On April 25 at around 3.45 pm, it said, the newspaper had called Mr. Prasad to ask him about the denial of visa to Chinese dissident Dolkun Issa. Mr. Prasad apparently put the reporter on hold and had another telephone conversation regarding the Ishrat missing papers probe. It was evident that he was speaking to an officer who was scheduled to give his statement the next day as part of the probe, the report said. Subsequently, the newspaper said, it was able to confirm that the officer Mr. Prasad spoke to was Ashok Kumar, Joint Secretary (Parliament, Hindi Division and Nodal Officer for monitoring of court cases) in the Department of Commerce. Mr. Kumar was Director in the Internal Security division of the Home Ministry that dealt with the Ishrat case between March 1, 2011 and December 23, 2011.

Mr. Prasad’s one-man inquiry committee had submitted its report on Wednesday. It said four of the five missing documents continued to be untraceable. The panel quoting the then Joint Secretary said the papers were part of a file which went to his seniors but they were found to be missing when the file returned to him. Mr. Chidambaram was the Home Minister then.

The Congress leader said the news report completely vindicated the position he had taken on the two affidavits. The first affidavit on August 6, 2009, disclosed the “intelligence inputs” that had been shared by the Centre with the State government. Mr. Chidambaram said the report of the Metropolitan Magistrate S.P. Tamang, who conducted a judicial inquiry, had found that Ishrat Jahan and three others were indeed killed in a “fake encounter.”

“The report caused an uproar in Gujarat and elsewhere. The first affidavit was misinterpreted and misused to defend the encounter. It was, therefore, necessary to clarify the first affidavit.

“Hence, a ‘further affidavit’ was filed on September 29, 2009, clarifying that intelligence inputs ‘do not constitute conclusive proof and it is for the State government and the State police to act on such inputs.’”

Mr. Chidambaram said the contents of the ‘further affidavit,’ were absolutely clear and correct. It was unfortunate that most people who commented on the matter had not cared to read the ‘further affidavit.’

Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi reacted angrily to the news report. “I strongly deny that charge. There was never a need to do so [tutor a witness] now or in the past. The interpretation of a one-sided conversation, where you cannot clearly ascertain what the person on the other side of the phone line is trying to say, is questionable. We will issue an official statement on this soon.”

Mr. Prasad too issued a statement. “What he is saying is only one side of the conversation, without being aware what the other side, ie Mr. Ashok Kumar, was asking or clarifying with me. The officer, with whom my conversation has been quoted, was enquired by me on April 26 and the question which has been quoted from my alleged conversation was never asked from Mr. Kumar and the answer quoted by the newspaper was never given by him. All officers enquired by me are or have been officers in the government and are fully capable of answering questions relating to the probe on their own… and there is no question of alleged tutoring.”

BJP national secretary Siddharth Nath Singh said the report did not absolve Mr. Chidambaram. “Unfortunately, Congress feels that a newspaper has given them another springboard to prove that Ishrat Jahan had no LeT link.” It did not absolve Mr. Chidambaram of his role in changing the affidavit or the Congress that apparently traded national security for political interest.

Another party secretary Shrikant Sharma also attacked Congress after it accused the government of “fixing” the probe into the missing files.

There was enough “evidence,” including reports of the IB and the FBI of the U.S., to prove that Ishrat Jahan was a terrorist, he said. The Congress’s comments were part of its efforts to prove that she was not. “Instead of making such claims, Congress should apologise to the country.” Whether it was the Batla House encounter case or the Ishrat Jahan case, the Congress’s sympathies lay with the terrorists. Its party leaders, he said, had visited the houses of those killed in the Batla case to express their condolences.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 6:13:21 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/I-have-been-vindicated-Chidambaram/article14426044.ece

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