Ahmedabad/New Delhi: The alleged role of a senior Intelligence Bureau official in the fake encounter that killed 19-year-old Ishrat Jahan and three others in 2004 in Gujarat has spawned a crisis for the government.
The Home Ministry is determined to protect Rajendra Kumar from being arrested and charged with conspiracy and murder. The Central Bureau of Investigation has reportedly decided to wait - but only for a bit - to bring those charges against Mr Kumar, currently Special Director of the Intelligence Bureau.
So in the first chargesheet, to be filed in the Gujarat High Court on July 4, the CBI will not include Mr Kumar. But in the next one, it will focus on the conspiracy behind the shootout; sources say Mr Kumar will be named here.
By then, he will have retired.
When Ishrat, a college student, was shot by Ahemdabad's crime Branch officers on the outskirts of the city, Mr Kumar was the Gujarat station chief of the Intelligence Bureau. The police said the group was killed because of intelligence alerts of a plan to assassinate Chief Minister Narendra Modi on behalf of the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The CBI says Mr Kumar helped plan and authorized the shootout, a charge he has denied.
The Home Ministry feels the CBI does not have evidence of those charges. It has, sources say, advised Mr Kumar to challenge the charges against him when they are filed. Mr Kumar has also been counseled to ask the court to make the ministry a party to the case on the grounds that its permission was not taken before pressing charges him.
It will then intervene in court on his behalf with a robust defense, said sources.
The ministry's stand is shaped at least partly by the need to signal to the government that pressing charges against intel officers involved in counter-terrorism can seriously damage morale and caution agents from offering advice or inputs.