Feb. 6: The CBI today charged former Intelligence Bureau special director Rajinder Kumar with murder and conspiracy in the 2004 Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case but did not name Amit Shah, then Gujarat home minister and a Narendra Modi aide.
The CBI had questioned Shah but agency sources said they lacked “clinching evidence” that he had cleared Gujarat police’s killing of Ishrat, 19, and three male companions, allegedly on an IB tip-off that they were plotting to assassinate chief minister Modi.
Kumar, named in today’s supplementary chargesheet with three serving IB officers, then headed the bureau’s Gujarat wing and retired last July as its special director. Never before has such a senior official of India’s premier internal intelligence-gathering agency, which reports to the Union home ministry, been implicated in a criminal case.
Even Kumar’s questioning last year had led to a tussle between the CBI and the IB. Some Union home ministry officials today questioned the CBI’s move to name Kumar in the chargesheet without waiting for legal opinion from attorney-general G.E. Vahanvati.
A senior CBI official told The Telegraph the agency had written to the law ministry three weeks ago but had not received a reply.
The first chargesheet, filed last July, had accused seven Gujarat police officers (and an eighth who is dead) of kidnapping Mumbai college girl Ishrat and the others, killing them and planting an AK-56 at the site to portray them as terrorists.
Today, the agency attached call data records to its supplementary chargesheet to claim that Kumar was in constant touch with the accused police officers.
“He was also in touch with Amit Shah in the days leading to the encounter. But that does not establish Shah’s complicity, as a state’s IB chief is expected to be in contact with the home minister,” an agency official said.
“We did not get any clinching evidence to nail Shah. The call records could not be used as circumstantial evidence that there was a political sanction to the 2004 fake encounter.”
A disappointed Mukul Sinha, a lawyer representing one of the four victims, said the CBI’s failure to explain the motive was why it could not name Shah, who is an accused in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case.
Sinha wondered how a prosecuting agency could fail to mention the motive in a conspiracy case.
CBI counsel Ejaz Khan sidestepped the criticism and said: “For me, the most important thing is that, for the first time, four IB officers are being prosecuted.”
The agency will let the court decide whether the four should be arrested. The accused are expected to seek bail.
Kumar has been charged with murder, criminal conspiracy, kidnapping in order to murder, wrongful confinement and providing a weapon to be planted at the murder site. The three serving IB officers — P. Mittal, M.K. Sinha and Rajiv Wankhede — have been charged with the same offences except murder.
The three men killed with Ishrat were Javed Shaikh, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar. The chargesheet says the CBI has found no evidence to justify the alleged IB input about their being terrorists or planning to kill Modi.