It is not the first time that Satish Verma, the chief vigilance officer of North-Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) whose report against junior home minister Kiren Rijiju has given the opposition a handle to attack the Centre, has grabbed headlines.
Verma, a 1986-batch Gujarat IPS officer, was part of the special investigation team and later assisted the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe that concluded Ishrat Jahan was killed in a fake encounter by the Gujarat police in an ‘Intelligence Bureau (IB)-led operation’ in June 2004. The 19-year-old was killed along with her alleged Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) associates on the outskirts of Ahmedabad.
It was for the first time the country’s domestic intelligence agency was being accused of being complicit in an extra-judicial killing.
By the time the CBI filed formal charges in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case, Verma was no longer a part of the agency’s team and the then IB chief Syed Asif Ibrahim objected to his presence in the probe team alleging bias on part of Verma against the then IB special director Rajinder Kumar.
Over Ibrahim and Kumar’s objections, Verma was taken off the probe team for the sake of fairness. But the IB’s image had been dented by then.
Kumar headed the IB unit in Ahmedabad at the time of Ishrat’s encounter and the CBI finally charged sheeted him along with his three junior officers and more than a dozen Gujarat police officials in the case.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also strongly suspected that the CBI’s probe into the Ishrat case was a vehicle to implicate the then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and his right-hand man Amit Shah in the case.
Following the regime change in May 2014, the Union home ministry under BJP’s Rajnath Singh didn’t give sanction to prosecute Kumar and other IB officials, closing a chapter in the long-running Ishrat encounter case.
Verma was earlier accused by a former home ministry officer RVS Mani of torturing him – when he was questioned in the case. Mani, as a home ministry official, filed two affidavits in the Gujarat high court on behalf of the ministry in connection with the Ishrat case proceedings in 2009.
In the first affidavit, the home ministry said Ishrat was linked with the LeT but in the second the ministry omitted mention of Ishrat’s links with the Pakistan-based terror outfit.
Verma strongly refuted the charges of bias against Kumar or torturing Mani.
Verma was subsequently posted outside Gujarat on a central deputation by the NDA regime as NEEPCO’s chief vigilance officer in Shillong. In a 129-page report to the CBI and the Union power ministry, Verma alleged corruption in the construction of two dams for the 600 MW Kameng hydroelectric project.
He alleged an elaborate conspiracy involving contractors, NEEPCO officials and the West Kameng district administration to defraud NEEPCO and the government of funds to the tune of Rs 450 crore. West Kameng, the site of the project, falls in Arunachal West which is the parliamentary constituency of Rijiju.
Verma was pulled up by NEEPCO, that comes under the power ministry, for “unauthorised absence” and transferred to the Central Reserve Police Force in Tripura soon after his report. Union home ministry has issued a show-cause notice to Verma seeking clarification on what it termed as ‘unauthorised leave’ while in NEEPCO.
But now Verma has filed a petition in the central administrative tribunal in Guwahati saying he had flagged the payment scam in NEEPCO and that’s why his tenure there was abruptly cut short. He pointed fingers at a contractor Goboi Rijiju, who allegedly claimed to be the cousin of Kiren Rijiju. The minister has denied that Goboi is related to him.
In between all this, Verma is still pursuing the Ishrat case. He approached the local court in Gujarat seeking a copy of the chargesheet filed by the CBI in the case. Verma alleged that an effort is being made to weaken the case against accused persons. But the Gujarat high court declined to entertain his plea saying he has no locus standi in the case.