The CBI's charge-sheet against Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Ajit Jogi raises questions about the prosecution's motives.in New Delhi
THE Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed a curious charge-sheet on October 7 before the court of the Metropolitan Magistrate, Karkardoma, Delhi. The charge-sheet was against Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Ajit Jogi, and was vague about his offence. It accused Jogi of using an Intelligence Bureau (I.B.) note, which he knew or had reason to believe was forged, with the intention of harming the reputation of I.B. Special Director N.C. Padhi, the I.B. itself and the Central government. It did not accuse anyone, including Jogi, of forging the note, nor did it seek to show how Jogi knew that the note was forged. The CBI also did not explain how the unsubstantiated allegations against Jogi in the note, even if they had been authored by the I.B., as alleged by Jogi, could have harmed the reputation of the I.B. and the Central government.
Soon after Jogi had brought the note to the Central government's notice, the government found it to be a forged one. It informed Jogi and assured him that the forgery would be probed. The CBI registered the case on April 2 on the basis of a complaint from the Cabinet Secretariat alleging forgery of a document, codenamed "Black Sea", issued by the I.B. on the acquisition of movable and immovable property by Jogi.
Tracing the sequence of events, the CBI stated that Jogi had come to Delhi on March 29 for a meeting and also met the I.B. Special Director on March 30. The next day he sent a demi official letter to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, enclosing a copy of a note alleged to have been initiated by the I.B. on the acquisition of property by Jogi. The note allegedly contained an endorsement by the I.B. Special Director as well as his signature.
In his letter Jogi alleged that the government was misusing the I.B. to defame political opponents, including Congressmen like him. Jogi claimed that it seemed to him that the plan was to fabricate a story of corruption using forged documents and such other means to gain political mileage in an election year. He then held a press conference in the All India Congress(I) Committee headquarters in New Delhi the same day, March 31, and released copies of both his letter to the Prime Minister and the alleged I.B. note. The CBI claimed that its investigations had found the note to be a forgery.
According to the CBI's charge-sheet, Jogi did not verify the authenticity of the document but used it as genuine while fully knowing it to be a forged one. Jogi did not confirm the document's authenticity from the I.B. Special Director but circulated 100-150 copies of it. The CBI alleged that Jogi did not wait for a reply from the Prime Minister about the genuineness of the document, but went to the press making allegations. On April 1, the Prime Minister replied to Jogi informing him that the document was a forged one and that the CBI had been directed to investigate the matter. In spite of this, the CBI claimed, Jogi wrote another letter to the Prime Minister on April 2 alleging a conspiracy to malign political opponents of the party ruling at the Centre by misusing the I.B.
On October 8, Metropolitan Magistrate Shahabuddin took cognisance of the CBI's charge-sheet and, on the basis of the statements of witnesses and documents submitted to the court, summoned Jogi to appear in the court on November 18 for offences punishable under Section 471 read with Sections 465 and 469 of the Indian Penal Code.
SEVERAL flaws are apparent in the CBI's charge-sheet. The CBI does not explain why it did not consider it necessary to seek the Governor's sanction to prosecute the Chief Minister. The Congress(I) maintains that it is mandatory to secure such sanction, in order to minimise the scope for foisting frivolous charges. Despite the Prime Minister's assurance to Jogi that the CBI had been directed to probe the forgery, the CBI does not appear to have done so. Instead, it went into Jogi's motives in circulating copies of the note and making allegations against the Centre on the matter, the party points out.
The CBI has not thrown light on how it found out that the note was forged, what was the nature of its investigations, whether it questioned Jogi and what exactly it found. The mere statement that investigations revealed that the note was forged, is hardly convincing. The CBI did not seek to show how Jogi knew that the note was forged. The fact that he brought it to the notice of the Prime Minister and then circulated its copies to members of the media shows that he probably believed it was a genuine document.
Kapil Sibal, Congress(I) Member of Parliament and a senior advocate of the Supreme Court, wrote in an article in a newspaper: "Jogi sent it to the Prime Minister under the impression that it was in fact an I.B. report and if so it suggested that the government was using a public body to keep tabs on its political opponents." Apparently, at the stage when Jogi sent it to the Prime Minister it was premature to investigate the genuineness of the note, and Jogi could probably not have been convinced that it was forged, even if he had entertained doubts about its authenticity.
Even if the I.B. note was forged, the Centre could have brought this fact to light with sufficient proof rather than foist a criminal case - especially when the basis for such a case seems to be weak - alleging motives on the part of a Chief Minister of a rival party. By implicating Jogi in the case, the CBI appears to have entered the political thicket, compromising its neutrality.
By arguing that Jogi made "false allegations" against the Central government and the I.B., it seems to be questioning the right of anyone to make allegations against the government and its institutions without verification and proof.