New Delhi: It threatens to be another day drenched in controversy for the civil activists who are leading India's anti-corruption movement.
A government forensic lab has reported that a CD that allegedly has Shanti Bhushan stating that a judge can be bribed for four crores is not doctored. The report was submitted to the Delhi Police today. However, sources say that the same lab has said that it needs more material for a conclusive finding.
Mr Bhushan, who has served as the country's law minister, was picked by civil activist Anna Hazare as the co-chairman of a new committee that is drafting an anti-corruption bill. Earlier this month, Mr Hazare went on a hunger strike to demand that the government get down straight away to the business of introducing the new Jan Lokpal Bill (Citizen's Ombudsman Bill). Because the bill will target politicians, Mr Hazare said they cannot have sole charge. With lakhs of Indians throwing their weight behind Mr Hazare, the government agreed to the 72-year-old's demands. The Lokpal Bill's Drafting Committee now includes five ministers and five non-elected representatives, including Mr Hazare, Mr Bhushan and his son, Prashant. (Watch: Bhushans - Smear campaign or fair game?)
Since then, the Bhushans have stared at a series of allegations that suggest they are ill-placed to be anti-corruption crusaders. Civil activists like Mr Hazare have backed the Bhushans , accusing some within the Congress party among others of launching "a smear campaign" to damage their credibility and to thwart the role of civil activists in the drafting of the Lokpal Bill. Others- mainly politicians like Amar Singh and Digvijaya Singh - have said that the Bhushans must be held accountable to the same standards of ethics that they apply to politicians. Amar Singh today suggested that Shanti Bhushan should exit the drafting committee based on the lab report today on his CD. (Watch: Bhushans should quit panel, says Amar Singh)
That CD was sent anonymously to media houses last week and has a conversation that is purported to be between Mulayam Singh Yadav, Amar Singh, and Shanti Bhushan. A voice resembling Mr Bhushan's says that a judge can be bribed and that his son can handle this; the assignment he says will cost four crores.
Prashant Bhushan has said that two different labs- one in Hyderabad and another in the US -have said the CD consists of spliced conversations.
The report by the government's forensic lab, today, however says that the CD is not doctored but that the entire conversation is needed - as opposed to the excerpt that's on the CD- for more information. The CISF lab has also said that voice samples of the three people on the CD would help provide conclusive evidence of whether it's genuine.
The CD and the new report have been handed to the Special Cell of the Delhi Police.
Swami Agnivesh -who like Mr Hazare has been at the forefront of the India Against Corruption Campaign - said the lab report handed to the police today "is absurd" and "should be verified." (Watch: Forensic lab report absurd, says Swami Agnivesh)
Expressing solidarity with the Bhushans, Arvind Kejriwal, civil rights activist and a member of the Lokpal bill drafting committee addressing a press conference this afternoon said the CD campaign is a malicious, smear campaign. (Watch: It's a smear campaign against the Bhushans, says Arvind Kejriwal)
Justice Santosh Hegde, Karnataka Lokayukta and another civil society member on the Lokpal panel also told NDTV that there seemed to be a concerted effort to denigrate members of the civil society to derail the anti-corruption movement. He, though, added that he would have reacted differently vis-à-vis the Bhushans had he known about the CD controversy. (Watch: Hegde on Bhushans in CD row)
What Forensic Lab Report Says About Bhushan CD
- The recorded conversation is in contextual continuity
- No abrupt change in the phase of speech signal could be detected
- No change in background noise pattern throughout the recording could be observed
- Hence, the recorded conversation in the CD marked exhibit 'Q' could not have been tampered. However, complete examination for authenticity of the recorded conversation can be carried out, if original recording is made available for examination.