Home ministry official denies tutoring witness in Ishrat probe

New Delhi : Home Ministry official B.K. Prasad on Thursday dismissed the charge that he tutored a witness in the probe relating to missing documents in the Ishrat Jahan case.

Prasad in a statement said: “All officers inquired by me are or have been senior officers in the government and are fully capable of answering questions relating to the probe on their own and there is no question of the alleged ‘tutoring’.”

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Prasad’s assertion comes a day after the one-man inquiry committee which he headed submitted its report on untraceable documents in the Ishrat Jahan case.

A report in the Indian Express said Prasad tutored a witness on what answers he should give during the examination.

According to the report, a call by the India Express to Prasad was put on hold while he was having conversation on another telephone regarding the missing papers probe.

The report said it was evident from the conversation that Prasad was speaking to an officer who was scheduled to give his statement to the probe committee, and it was later found that the officer was Ashok Kumar, a Joint Secretary in Parliament’s Hindi Division and nodal officer for monitoring the court cases in the Department of Commerce.

Prasad, however, denied the report and said that it was “unethical” to record his call without permission.

“No evidence has been produced establishing that Mr Ashok Kumar testified being ‘tutored’ during my alleged conversation,” he said in the statement.

“First of all, it is unethical to record my conversation that also with another officer without my permission and knowledge. More importantly, the conversation had nothing to do with the point of query the journalist had. Secondly, what is he saying is only one side of the conversation, without being aware of what the other side, i.e., Mr Ashok Kumar, was asking or clarifying with me,” he said.

“Thirdly, the officer with whom my conversation has been quoted was enquired by me on 26th April, 2016, and the questions which have been quoted from my alleged conversation were never asked from Mr. Ashok Kumar and the answer which is quoted by the newspaper was never given by him,” he said.

Prasad, according to the report published in the paper on Thursday, told the officer: “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).”

He also told the officer giving a different reply would raise doubts about the officer having played a role in the disappearance of the papers.

“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 say, at least, 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 to say, according to the report.

He also reported to have said: “And another question will be, ‘Did anybody give you these documents to be kept separately with you?’ Aap bologe, ‘Nahi, mere ko kisi ne nahi diya.’ (You will say, ‘No, nobody gave them to me’).”

Prasad led one-man inquiry committee and on Wednesday submitted its report where it said that four of the five missing documents in the case continue to be untraceable.

The Ishrat Jahan case refers to the gunning down of four alleged terrorists in Gujarat on June 15, 2004, which the CBI had alleged were killed in a staged encounter.

Later, several officials associated with the case, including those from the home ministry and the Intelligence Bureau, accused the then Congress-led UPA government of changing an affidavit for political gains.