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Ministry sitting on Ishrat files: CBI

New Delhi, Aug. 23: The CBI has claimed that the home ministry is sitting on files seeking sanction to prosecute Intelligence Bureau officers chargesheeted in the 2004 Ishrat Jahan “fake” encounter case.

Top CBI sources said the agency’s request for sanction of prosecution has been stonewalled by the ministry, setting the stage for fresh confrontation between the agencies.

“It’s really surprising that the home ministry is still sitting on those files for sanctioning prosecution against the accused IB officials, even though we have handed over all relevant documents and evidence that clearly show their involvement in the crime,” a senior CBI official said.

The IB reports to the home ministry.

In February this year, the CBI had charged former IB special director Rajinder Kumar with murder and three serving IB officers — P. Mittal, M.K. Sinha and Rajiv Wankhede — with criminal conspiracy in the case. But it cleared Amit Shah, the then Gujarat home minister and a close aide of Narendra Modi.

The CBI’s contention comes in the backdrop of a recent affidavit filed by the IB in the Supreme Court, accusing it of implicating IB officers.

“We don’t know what is stopping the ministry from giving sanction to prosecute the accused officials,” the CBI officer said, adding the matter was already in a Gujarat court, which had taken cognisance of the chargesheet.

“The trial is likely to begin next month. Let them prove their innocence in the designated court if they think they have been implicated,” the official said.

Ishrat, a 19-year-old college student, and three others were gunned down by Gujarat police in June 2004, allegedly on a tip-off from Kumar that they were terrorists plotting to murder then Gujarat chief minister Modi.

In the chargesheet, the CBI had alleged that the encounter was “staged” and it was a joint operation between Gujarat police and the IB.

The two agencies have been on collision course since last year when the CBI questioned IB’s Kumar and the three other serving officers in connection with the case.

Last month, IB officers complained to home minister Rajnath Singh about the CBI’s alleged “high-handedness” in chargesheeting its officials without getting the mandatory sanction for prosecution from the competent authority (home ministry).

“We are still going through all the documents provided by the CBI and a decision will be taken only after that,” said a home ministry official, adding there was no bad blood between the agencies as was being made out.

On August 4, the home ministry had asked the CBI to furnish all relevant documents on the four IB officials before deciding on the sanction for prosecution.

“We have done our job and filed the chargesheet in the case. The ball is now in the ministry’s court,” said another CBI officer.

Home ministry officials said it was mandatory to obtain sanction for prosecuting the intelligence officials under Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code, without which the four accused could not be put to trial.

“This is a sensitive issue and we are also taking legal opinions before reaching a conclusion. We do not want to act in haste,” a ministry official said.

The CBI is under the administrative control of the department of personnel and training, which is under the Prime Minister.