New Delhi: After a controversy broke out over purported "tutoring" of witnesses in Ishrat Jahan case, senior Home Ministry official B K Prasad on Thursday rejected the allegation and claimed to have conducted a "free and fair" enquiry.
Prasad, an Additional Secretary in the ministry and who has been given an extension for two months till July, is at the centre of a row after a newspaper report claimed that he was "tutoring" witnesses.
The newspaper also uploaded the conversation in public domain where he is purportedly conveying the questions as well as answers to one of the witnesses questioned by him in connection with an enquiry related to missing documents in Ishrat Jahan case.
Prasad, who is looking after the Foreigners division, said, "First of all, it is unethical to record my conversation that also with another officer without my permission and knowledge."
He said no evidence has been produced establishing that the officer testified by him was being tutored during the alleged conversation. "All officers enquired by me are or have been senior officers in the government and are fully capable of answering questions relating to the probe on their own and there is no question of the alleged tutoring.”
"I have conducted a free and fair enquiry which my enquiry report will reveal," he said in a statement.
Reacting to the report, Congress leader and former Home Minister P Chidambaram said the news report "comprehensively exposed the fake controversy" created by the NDA government on the two affidavits filed by the central government in the case.
"The moral of the story is that even a doctored report (of the 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," he said.
Prasad led one-man inquiry committee yesterday submitted its report where it said that four of the five missing documents continue to be untraceable.
The panel said that as per then Joint Secretary, the papers were part of the file which went to his seniors but not found when the file returned to him. Chidambaram was the Home Minister then.
The inquiry panel, however, made no reference to Chidambaram or anyone in the then UPA government.
Based on the statements of 11 serving and retired officers, including the then Home Secretary G K Pillai, the 52-page report said the documents went missing between September 18-28, 2009.
The second affidavit, which was different from the first one, and filed before Gujarat High Court on September 29, 2009, had said there was no conclusive evidence to suggest that Ishrat was an LeT operative.
The papers which went missing are office copy of the letter and enclosure sent by the then Home Secretary to the Attorney General on September 18, 2009, office copy of the letter sent by the them Home Secretary to the AG on September 23, 2009, draft further affidavit as vetted by the AG, draft further affidavit amended by the then Home Minister on September 24, 2009 and office copy if the further affidavit filed with the Gujarat High Court on September 29, 2009.
The paper which was retrieved from a computer hard disk was the letter sent by the then Home Secretary to AG on September 18, 2009.
Ishrat, Javed Shaikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjadali Akbarali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were killed in the encounter with Gujarat Police on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004.
The Gujarat Police had then said those killed in the encounters were LeT terrorists and had landed in Gujarat to kill the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Sources said in his statement to the Ishrat inquiry panel, retired IAS officer Deverakonda Diptivilasa had reportedly said the documents were part of the file which he sent to the seniors during the deliberations before the second affidavit related to the alleged fake encounter case was filed.
However, the five documents were not found in the file when it returned, Diptivilasa, who was the then Joint Secretary (Internal Security) in the Home Ministry, learnt to have told the panel.
Sources said Home Ministry officials have detected about the five missing documents in 2013, when the UPA was in power but it was never flagged as the fair copies were intact then.
The first affidavit was filed on the basis of inputs from Maharashtra and Gujarat Police besides Intelligence Bureau where it was said the 19-year-old girl from Mumbai outskirts was an activist of terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba but it was ignored in the second affidavit, Home Ministry officials said.
The second affidavit, claimed to have been drafted by Chidambaram, said there was no conclusive evidence to prove that Ishrat was a terrorist, the officials said.
Pillai had claimed that as Home Minister, Chidambaram had recalled the file a month after the original affidavit, which described Ishrat and her slain aides as LeT operatives, was filed in the court.
Subsequently, Chidambaram had said Pillai is equally responsible for the change in the affidavit....