Ministry to seek immunity for IB official

Ministry to seek immunity for IB official

The Intelligence Bureau (IB) is likely to drag the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to the Supreme Court to stem the investigating agency from implicating one of its special directors in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case.

The agency may plead that it enjoys legal immunity against any prosecution being a covert organisation. The IB decided to take this extreme step after their director Asif Ibrahim had a series of meetings over the last few days with his senior officials and other top brass in the North Block and South Block, including Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Home Secretary R K Singh and National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon.

On Thursday, Ibrahim again met with his senior colleagues and agreed to knock the doors of the apex court, having failed to convince the CBI officers that their Special Director Rajendra Kumar, during his previous stint as joint director in Ahmedabad, had merely shared an intelligence information with state police on a possible plot to kill Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

Mumbai college girl Ishrat Jahan, Pranesh Gopinath Pillai, Amjad Ali and Jishan Johar were killed by the Gujarat Police in an encounter on June 15, 2004. CBI investigators, said government sources, had gathered electronic evidence and witness statements to allegedly point out that Kumar was in regular touch with Gujarat Police officers in that year, including now absconding Additional Director General of Police P P Pandey, before and after the encounter.

The CBI officers charge that he went beyond merely passing on an input on an alleged Lashkar-e-Toiba module trying to bump off Modi that was also corroborated years later by Pakistani American terrorist David Headley.

Sources said the Union Ministry of Home Affairs is expected to file an affidavit on behalf of the IB, which doesn’t have a written existence, in the SC.

This is triggered after Kumar was summoned again by the CBI. The date is yet to be finalised. If the ministry approaches court to shield the IB, it would be an unparalleled exercise.

According to government sources, however, globally intelligence organisations such as the US’ Central Intelligence Agency are not held accountable for sharing information with other stakeholders which may go wrong, given the nature of their work. Other than that they do not participate in operations at the ground level and neither take credit even if it ends up serving the purpose.

Going by their decision on Thursday not to share inputs with law enforcement agencies till the crisis is sorted out, the IB seems to have opted for an undeclared protest.

 Agency officials believe that the CBI attempt to prosecute 1979-batch IPS officer Kumar in the encounter case has dangerous implications as it will expose them to endless litigation, especially in strife-torn states of Jammu and Kashmir and the North-Eastern region. 

CBI sources, however, said that call data records of cell phones used by Kumar and other state police officers, like that of PP Pandey, clearly point out that they were in constant touch with one another. The investigating agency sleuths indicate that the probe is leading to a point where Kumar could be charged with being part of a criminal conspiracy to bump off Jahan and others in the encounter. 

The IB, however, sees nothing unusual in their state intelligence set up interacting with police officers as both the organisations work together on internal security matters.

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