A senior Union Home Ministry official who headed the probe into the “missing documents” in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case, tried to manipulate the probe by informing the witness the questions he would ask and suggesting what answers he should give — that he had not seen any of the documents.
The shocking revelation has been made by Indian Express, whose reporter accidentally ended up recording this candid conversation of BK Prasad with the witness in question.
This coaching of a witness by the man heading the investigation will no doubt raise many questions on the integrity of the probe announced in Lok Sabha by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on 10 March.
The new investigation was necessitated by the NDA government’s allegation that the UPA government had changed the second affidavit dropping references to Ishrat’s alleged Lashkar links and allowed for a CBI probe into her 15 June, 2004 killing.
In his report sumbitted by Prasad, he remained inconclusive on the missing papers.
The Indian Express reporter had called Prasad on 25 April to seek his reaction on Indian government’s decision to canel visa to Chinese dissident leader Dolkun Issa.
An Additional Secretary (Foreigners) in the MHA, Prasad put the reporter on hold and began to speak to someone on another line, whose conversation could be heard by the reporter.
In the audio recorded by the reporter, Prasad is heard saying, “Aapne ye paper dekha? (Have you seen that paper?)”
He then goes on to say, “Aapko kehna hai ki ‘Maine ye paper nahi dekha.’ Seedhi si baat hai (You have to say, ‘I have not seen that paper.’ It’s as simple as that).”
“Aapko itna toh kehna hoga ki ya toh woh file hi maine kabhi zindagi mein deal nahi kiya, kabhi file ko dekhne ka kabhi mauka hi nahi mila (You will have to, at least, say that either you have never dealt with that file in your life, or have never had a chance to see it)… I don’t think you have seen that file at any point… Bas, that is what I want from you: ‘I have not seen that file at all’,” Prasad told the officer.
The officer, Prasad spoke to coaching him about Ishrat investigation, Ashok Kumar, Joint Secretary (Parliament, Hindi Division and Nodal Officer for monitoring of court cases) in the Department of Commerce.
Between March 1, 2011 and December 23, 2011, Kumar was Director in the Internal Security division of the Home Ministry that dealt with the Ishrat Jahan case.
Prsad told Indian Express, “Of course, in the course of enquiry, I have contacted many of these officers over phone or personally requesting them to appear for enquiry or fixing a mutually convenient date/time for enquiry, during which they might have asked about the nature of questions which might be asked. However, I must mention that the officers enquired by me are all senior officers and have worked in various capacities and are fully capable of answering the questions relating to this kind of probe on their own understanding. The conversation, if any, would have been in the context of clarifying the nature of enquiry. I must add that I have conducted a free and fair enquiry and all witnesses were given total freedom to express whatever they felt.”
Former home minister, P Chitambaram, said, “News report published today comprehensively exposes fake controversy created by NDA government on two affidavits filed. The news report completely vindicates the position that I had taken on the two affidavits.”