NEW DELHI: The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has denied the CBI sanction to prosecute Intelligence Bureau (IB) officials, including its former Special Director Rajinder Kumar and three others.
The agency had accused Kumar and three other IB officials -- M K Sinha, P Mittal and Rajiv Wankhede -- of carrying out a joint operation to kidnap and kill four persons -- Ishrat Jehan, Amjad Ali, Pranesh Pillai alias Javed Sheikh and Zeeshan Johar -- in an alleged fake encounter in 2004. “The sanction was denied after a detailed examination of the records received from the CBI. The agency based its case on circumstantial evidences only and this cannot be ground for giving sanction,” an MHA official said.
The MHA move is a huge relief to the domestic spy agency, which had come under scanner after the Ishrat encounter controversy pulled out names from the obscure department. Although, the former IB chief had opposed the CBI move to prosecute intelligence officials in the case, the previous regime had triggered friction between the two agencies over the issue due to political demands. The intelligence gathering work -- often dangerous and sometimes dirty -- was stalled by the assets left paranoid by public glare and media trial of covert operations that went unnoticed in the past.
Although lawyers representing Ishrat’s mother indicated that they planned to challeng the MHA decision in the court, the charges against all the four IB officials cannot be framed as of now. As per the rules under Section 197 of the CrPC, previous sanction of the Centre is required for prosecution.
On June 15, 2004, Ishrat, Ali, Pillai and Johar were killed by the Gujarat Police near Ahmedabad, claiming that the four were members of Pakistan-based LeT and were plotting to eliminate top BJP leaders, including the state’s then Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The IB had maintained that a reliable input was received about LeT instructing its operatives in India to monitor the movements of L K Advani, Modi VHP leader Praveen Togadia. This input was shared with all state police chiefs on April 22, 2004.
However, the CBI in its probe had stated that the encounter was not genuine and it was a joint operation of Subsidiary IB, Ahmedabad, and Gujarat Police officials.
In its first chargesheet filed on July 3, 2013 against seven Gujarat police officials, the CBI had alleged that intelligence officials Rajeev Wankhede, M K Sinha and T Mittal had confined an alleged terrorist and placed him under audio surveillance. It had said that three officials had abducted another alleged terrorist from Gota crossing and confined him under illegal custody at Arham farm house.
In the supplementary chargesheet, Kumar was charged under Sections 302 (murder), 120 -B (criminal conspiracy), 364 (kidnapping in order to murder), 346, 364 & 368 (wrongful confinement) of the IPC, besides Sections 3, 25 (A) and 29 of the Arms Act.