A former home ministry official has alleged the CBI tried to coerce him during his questioning in the 2004 Ishrat Jahan encounter case. The official, who drafted the ministry’s two conflicting affidavits before the Gujarat high court in 2009, alleged in a June 24 letter that the CBI’s special investigation team (SIT) pressured him to implicate his seniors.
“During the course of recording of the statement, there were differences between the facts in my knowledge and the framing of the same by the IG, SIT, Satish Chandra Verma. Many a fact to which I was not privy to or officially never in my domain during the tenure in ministry of home affairs were coerced to be signed by me [sic],” said former home ministry under-secretary (internal security division) RVS Mani, who is now deputy land and development officer in the ministry of urban development. The letter was addressed to his current department superiors — the joint secretary (land and works) and the land and development officer.
“Knowing fully well that this would tantamount falsely indicting my seniors at the extant time, I declined to sign any statement. They have recorded some contents under the premise of section 161 of the CrPC which do not require signatures of the witness,” he said in the letter.
Verma questioned and recorded Mani’s statement in Gandhinagar on June 22.
He was relieved from the SIT, CBI, on June 24 with the permission of the court and is posted at the Police Training College in Gujarat’s Junagadh.
CBI spokesperson Dharni Mishra denied the allegation. “There is no question of CBI coercing any person into giving any statement.” She said the CBI had received no complaint from any person regarding coercion by SIT, CBI, in Gandhinagar. Senior CBI officials, requesting anonymity, said this was being done to malign the bureau and thwart the investigation.
Verma said: “I am not allowed to speak to the press about my official work. You presume what suits you.”
Mani remained elusive to HT despite repeated messages left at his office with his personal assistant.
Given the sensitivity of the Ishrat Jahan case, the letter was referred to the highest levels in the home ministry. Mani had signed the first affidavit submitted before the high court on August 6, 2009, and then filed another on September 30, 2009.
The first affidavit termed the four killed in the June 15, 2004 encounter as Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists and objected to a CBI probe into the incident. But the second affidavit maintained that intelligence inputs about those killed did not constitute conclusive proof. It neither justified nor supported the encounter and was open to a CBI probe.
The CBI perhaps wanted to know from Mani the source of inputs used in the two ministry affidavits. He was summoned for questioning to Gandhinagar on June 22 first over telephone and then through a letter sent to his superior secretary (urban development) the same evening.
In his letter, Mani told his superiors that he was willing to record statements with the CBI only in the presence of the chief vigilance officer of the urban development ministry or his representative after the contents had been vetted by the home ministry.
Mani wants the home ministry to take up the matter. He asked the government that he be permitted to hire a lawyer to be present whenever his statement was being recorded. “Many contents are sought to be included and I am being coerced to sign the statement by the CBI,” he alleged in the letter.