Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Tale Of Two CD's

TOI 24AUG2011

The Gujarat government's treatment of compact discs (CDs) containing phone calls relating to the 2002 riots and the fake encounters is a study in contrast, going by the punishment meted out to DIG Rahul Sharma, who saved the riot CD, and the rewards given to former DGP O P Mathur who is accused of destroying the encounter CD. Ajay Umat reports:

Rahul Sharma gets the stick

Telephone records of all mobile phones operational in Ahmedabad city for the period of 25/2/2002 to 04/04/2002 were collected by Rahul Sharma, then DCP, Control Room. The idea was to find out who the accused were in touch with and whether they were present at the scene of crime. To scuttle ongoing investigations at that time, Sharma was transfered to the post of commandant, SRP force at Vav, Surat, in less than 3 months. Before relinquishing charge, Sharma says he handed over the two original CDs to

P P Pandey, then joint CP, Crime Branch, Ahmedabad through a messenger. He also copied the data to the hard-disk of his personal computer.

Later, in October 2004, as a government witness Sharma submitted the CDs to Justice Nanavati Commission, to Justice UC Banerjee committee in November 2004 and to the SIT in May 2008. On SIT's directive, Naroda police station arrested Dr Maya Kodnani, minister in the Modi government, and VHP leader Dr Jaideep Patel and others. Unfortunately, the SIT has left loopholes as it did not make the effort to conclusively establish who were using 43 suspect numbers. Thus, accused persons may get acquitted during the course of trial.

There is also an attempt to prove that CDs submitted by Sharma are tampered and should not be treated as admissible evidence. The state government has given a charge sheet to Sharma on the basis of a complaint by P P Pandey that he did not return the CDs which are the only piece of scientific evidence left as the mobile service providers have destroyed the original data, as they normally do after the lapse of three years. The government may slap the Official Secrets Act against Sharma for keeping this data unauthorisedly and presenting the same for inquiries without taking permission of the government. In such an eventuality, Sharma can be arrested — all for saving this vital piece of evidence.

O P Mathur continues to be rewarded OP Mathur was given a charge sheet in December 2005 on six counts, including grounds of moral turpitude and indiscipline. Since the acts committed while he was serving as IGP (Security) amount to criminal offences, a case was also filed against him by Vatva police. In January 2007, he was made Addl DGP, CID- Crime, during which he supervised investigations into the Sohrabuddin encounter.

By this time, his DIG Rajnish Rai had gathered phone call data records of DG Vanzara, Rajkumar Pandian and Dinesh M N, apart from other officers of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh who were allegedly involved in the fake encounter. On the basis of evidence, Rai arrested the three IPS officers, without the knowledge of Mathur, who allegedly tried to scuttle the probe. In May 2007, Rai was transfered and he states in an affidavit that he returned the phone records saved in two CDs. In June 2008, Sohrabuddin's brother Rubabuddin told the court that these CDs had been destroyed. Replying to the allegation, Rai's replacement and inspector general Geetha Johri told the court in July 2008 that this data was "very much available" with the investigaing officer. In November 2008, the home department dropped all the charges against Mathur and promoted him as DGP. In August 2009, a few months after his retirement, he was appointed as director general of Raksha Shakti University, a brainchild of chief minister Narendra Modi.

In January 2010, when the records were transferred to the CBI, which took over the investigation on the directions of the Supreme Court, the CDs which were handed over by the CID to CBI did not have the data of senior officers of Gujarat. Phone records of Andhra officials were also missing. CBI has confiscated the hard-disks of Mathur and Johri's computers and sent it to Central Forensic Laboratory as primary inquiry suggests the data has been tampered with.


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