Senior Congress leader and ex-home minister P Chidambaram, who drew flak for allegedly amending an affidavit filed by the Centre in the Ishrat Jahan case, on Thursday said a report published in a newspaper “completely exposed the fake controversy created by the NDA government”.
Chidambaram was reacting to a report by The Indian Express that a Union home ministry official, who headed the probe into the missing documents related to the preparation of the ministry’s second affidavit in the case, not only told a witness the questions he would ask but also suggested the answers - that he had not seen any of the documents.
The Congress leader and former Home Minister also accused the Modi government of creating a “fake controversy” over two affidavits filed in the Ishrat Jahan case and preparing a “doctored” report on the missing files.
Nineteen-year-old Mumbai resident Jahan and three others were killed by Gujarat police in an alleged fake encounter on the outskirts of Ahmedabad in 2004. Police said they were part of a plot to assassinate then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, a charge disputed by her family and activists.
Additional secretary BK Prasad, who was investigating the issue of the missing documents, found that the papers were “removed knowingly or unknowingly, or misplaced” in 2009 when Chidambaram was the home minister.
The Express said that Prasad’s “coaching of a witness in the inquiry has resulted in tailor-made testimony.”
“The Indian Express report completely vindicates the position that I had taken on the two affidavits. The first affidavit (6 August 2009) disclosed the “intelligence inputs” that had been shared by the Central government with the State government,” Chidambaram said.
He further said judge SP Tamang in his report on September 7, 2009, found that Ishrat Jahan and three others had been killed in a fake encounter.
“The report caused 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 (29 September 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’,” he added.
The former finance minister further said the contents of the ‘further affidavit’ (especially paras 2 and 5) are absolutely clear and correct. “It is unfortunate that most people who commented on the matter had not cared to read the ‘further affidavit’,” he added.
Chidambaram also said the five “missing” documents completely vindicated the position he had taken.
“The sequence of events conclusively establishes that we had acted in a totally transparent manner. The draft of the ‘further affidavit’ was vetted by the Attorney General, the highest law officer of the country, before it was filed,” he said.
“The file passed through the hands of the Home Secretary at least 3 or 4 times. Ultimately, the ‘further affidavit’ was filed in Court on the orders of the Home Secretary,” he added.
Chidambaram said he takes full responsibility for filing the ‘further affidavit’ which was absolutely the correct thing to do.
“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 added.
Earlier in March, former home secretary GK Pillai and former undersecretary in the ministry, RVS Mani, said the reference to Jahan’s LeT links were present in the first affidavit but was removed in a second affidavit on the directions of Chidambaram, who was then the home minister.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) used Pillai’s remarks to allege that Chidambaram amended the document to suit his party’s view that Jehan was innocent and was killed on the orders of the Gujarat government.
It said earlier the UPA was playing politics with terror and that he changed the document to suit his party’s view that Jehan was innocent and was killed on the orders of the Gujarat government
It accused Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Chidambaram of plotting a conspiracy to discredit and frame then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi by distorting facts about Ishrat.
On its part, Congress accused Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah of attempting to derail the judicial process and trial in the case.