The BJP's leader in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, today produced a document which suggests that former Gujarat Home Minister Amit Shah was booked and arrested by the CBI in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case so that it can ultimately target Shah's boss - Narendra Modi.
This could well be one explosive piece of evidence that the BJP hopes will turn the spotlight on how the UPA uses (or misuses) the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against political rivals.
Even as the Supreme Court's ringing references to the CBI as a "caged parrot" are still to subside, Jaitley produced what he claimed was a CBI note dated 23 June 2010 that had the following noting: "Request you to refer again to annexure ABC, arrest proposal of Amit Shah dated 14 April, with underlined importance of annexure C.……for its potential in respect to Chief Minister (Narendra Modi) also.”
After this note, which linked Shah’s arrest with Modi’s fate, permission to go after him was immediately granted, he said.
Shah was arrested but granted bail by the trial court, a decision which was upheld by the High Court and subsequently the Supreme Court. Jaitley’s point was that in murder cases the courts generally don’t grant bail, but since the evidence against Shah was so weak, and even trashed during bail hearings, the courts deemed it appropriate to grant him bail. Jaitley’s charge is that “this is the real face of the CBI.”
Shah has maintained in private conversations that the CBI applied all kinds of pressure on him in order to name Narendra Modi in the encounter killings. But Shah proved to be a tough nut. He has now been elevated to the position of party general secretary.
The BJP leadership is miffed at the CBI’s supplementary charge-sheet filed in the Sohrabuddin encounter case where Gulab Chand Kataria, former Home Minister in Vasundhara Raje's Rajasthan government and current Leader of the Opposition in the state, has also been named a conspirator in the case. It is the same case where Amit Shah is also an accused, facing similar charges.
Top BJP leaders have decided to challenge all aspects of the case, and are also reiterating their charge that the CBI had made out a politically motivated case at the behest of the ruling Congress. To fight back, the BJP leadership appeared before the media in full force to make its position clear on the CBI’s naming of Kataria. There is speculation that the CBI may also take aim at Raje, who was Chief Minister of the state till 2008. Elections in Rajasthan are due in November and Raje is the face of the BJP campaign for a return to power.
The BJP is contrasting the CBI's attitude in the Sohrabuddin encounter case, where the agency is chasing Shah and Kataria with vigour, and the railway bribery case, where CBI Director Ranjit Sinha has reportedly said that there was no direct evidence against former Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal. The opposition party’s charge is that even before Bansal can be questioned, the CBI director has made a political defence of the government.
While the party's leaders feel that the Congress' alleged misuse of the CBI will help the BJP in the elections, they are wary of the judicial process and resultant public perceptions outside the state. The CBI is accusing Kataria of conspiring, at the behest of the Rajasthan marble lobby, and coordinating with Amit Shah to eliminate the two extortionists, Sohrabuddin and Tulsiram Prajapati. Sohrabuddin’s wife Kausarbi was also killed in the encounter.
An opinion given by Attorney General Goolam E Vahanvati on 27 May 2011 in the Rajendra Rathore case, (You can access that document here) another former BJP minister in Rajasthan who was booked by the CBI in a fake encounter involving bootlegger Dara Singh, is being cited by the BJP to prove its point about the agency's bias. While concluding his three-page opinion on whether Rajendra Rathore should be made an accused in the Dara Singh case, the Attorney General wrote: “ In view of the above, I agree with the opinion of the Additional Director, CBI, which has been approved by the Director, CBI, that more evidence should be collected of the alleged involvement of Shri Rajendra Singh Rathore and, thereafter, it may be considered whether he should be joined as an accused or not.”
Rathore was granted bail by the trial court, which also rejected the charge-sheet filed by the CBI. The matter is now pending in the High Court on an appeal filed by the CBI and Dara Singh’s widow Sushila Devi.
Incidentally, the BJP's latest attack on the CBI comes a day after the government made an announcement about the constitution of a Group of Ministers (GoM) led by Finance Minister P Chidambaram to formulate a draft to give functional independence to the CBI and report it to the Supreme Court at the next hearing on Coalgate on 10 July. The BJP calls the constitution of the GoM an “eyewash” because the issue had been discussed at length in the Select Committee and in Rajya Sabha during the Lokpal debate.