Lok Pal bill make or break today

The meeting of the Lok Pal to be held later today is expected to be a make or break one. The members of the Lok Pal drafting panel are going for this meeting alright, but they do not have their hopes too high and are aware of what the government will do at the end of it.

Justice Santhosh Hegde who is one of the members of the panel tells us what one could expect from the meeting. I get the feeling that the government will come around the Prime Minister’s issue, but will scuttle all the other important issues. At yesterday’s meeting, the issue of the Prime Minister did come up. But the government had pointed out that a Prime Minister can be probed into only once he demits office. This rule already exists and we saw what happened in the case of P V Narasimha Rao. He was probed in connection with the JMM bribery case only once he demitted office. If the government expects us to agree to that then it would be nothing but mockery.

However what I understand out of this entire exercise is that at the end of it the Government may agree for the inclusion of the Prime Minister. While they may agree to do this, they will for sure leave out the rest of the important issues that have to find a mention in the final bill of the Lokpal. A majority of the general public think that the disagreements are only relating to the inclusion of the Prime Minister. If the government includes this clause then it will not agree on the rest of the things we have asked for. There is bound to be friction due to this and then the government will go tell the people that they gave what we asked for but we continue to make a fuss and this would make us all look like cribbers.

I am not expecting much from this meeting to be held today. There are still a lot of issues where there is a disagreement between the two parties. Some of these issues are really crucial for the bill.

Take for instance the appointment of the Lokpal. The government wants a lot of politicians and burecrats to hold this post. Barring the inclusion of two from the judges fraternity, the rest of them are from the political side. This is not a feasible option since the control goes back to the government entirely.

The other issue is the recommendation to remove a person for charges of corruption. The government says that only it can make this recommendation. This is just a farce. If the Lokpal is favourable to the government then it defeats the cause entirely. A citizen can seek the impeachment of a judge provided he has the support. Why cant he be given the same right over here too?

The issue of having another anti corruption is also another matter for disagreement. The government has made it clear that the anti corruption wing of the CBI shall not be used for the Lok Pal. My question is why is the government contemplating more than one anti corruption wing in the country. What happens to the wing under the CBI then if another similar force is put in place? Obviously the wing of the CBI becomes defunct. The government should realise that it will take a while before it could set up a new wing and train all the personnel to handle this case. We feel that the wing of the CBI should be included into the Lok Pal.

The other issues also include the strength of the body around the Lok Pal. The government refuses to give more persons.

Most (un) wanted goof up

It was truly a case of egg on the face for India when it goofed up with the terror list sent to Pakistan. Lack of coordination, professional jealousy and lethargy are the root causes for such issues to crop up.

The primary cause being pointed out in this entire case is that the list was sent out mechanically and in the euphoria of trying to do an America on the Osama Bin Laden issue every agency including the government acted in haste.

Today the attitude of every agency is that of a defensive one. The police say that the list was sent out in the year 2010 and it had not been updated at New Delhi. The man at the Arthur Road jail was arrested in the year 2010 and the list was sent before that. Hence the people in New Delhi ought to have asked for an updated list. However this debate is countered by the Intelligence Bureau who say that the police could have sent an updated list as when there was a change in the status. The police department meanwhile is looking into the matter and at the moment there is no indication of any action, but the police chief would be looking to make some of these people accountable for the lethargy.

This issue has always been there says the Intelligence Bureau. Looking at the Interpol records put out by India, there has been a problem with that too. In most cases, the proof that has been supplied is just not enough for India to seek an extradition. Moreover there is also an issue that a person needs to be booked at least twice before one could seek his extradition.

A senior police official points out that the system acts in a horrific manner. There is a cell in the Central Bureau of Investigation at New Delhi which needs to update this list and for them to do so the local police need to keep them updated. This job is most of the time assigned to a constable who on most occasions fails to understand the seriousness of the matter. The police official also points out that for many officers the case of terrorism has become a prestigious issue and they always try and be one up on their counterparts. An IB official seconds this and says that the mentality of the police continues to remain local despite such a looming threat of terrorism which is a completely national issue. We know of cases where two officers in the same department and same state do not cooperate with each other. They have undertaken operations without each other’s knowledge and have even planted moles in each others departments to get the better of each other. Hence it is obvious that when one officer has information he is bound not to share with his colleague.

Such things must work systematically and the seriousness of the matter has to be realised at the local police station level itself. Each time there is an alert issued or a person has been nabbed the list has to updated immediately and an intimation sent to New Delhi. At New Delhi these persons must religiously update the list and not dangle on for even a day.

While the police tend to blame the IB for this goof up, the IB on the other hand say that their job is restricted to providing information and picking up intercepts. It is the police which has to update records and sometimes we do wish that they would treat this issue as a national problem. However the police counter this argument and point out that even the IB has a list with itself and it would do well too to keep gathering information and updating the list.

C D Sahay, former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing says, “ I can only blame the system for this mess. There are certain things which every department is supposed to do and unfortunately these are things which no one does. On most occasions, a red corner alert is issued. Intimations trickle in and no one updates the latest information. Don’t speak only about the CBI, the local police stations too are to be blamed and trust me there cannot be any excuse for incompetence. The police should first stop treating such cases as routine. These are not routine petty theft cases and matters of routine criminal investigation and prosecution. These issues need to be monitored and dealt with in an aggressive manner and security of the state should be of paramount concern since these determine the main strategic approach in determining foreign policy.

Looking at this case, what I fail to understand is why we did not go through the list. We had an original most wanted list of 20. Those should have been revisited and the additions to the list should have been carefully weighed. Re-weighed and assessed. There cannot be a luxury of margin of error in such cases and especially not while dealing with Pakistan and that too on the issue of terror.

I would like to ask the government of India as to what the rush was. The government appears to have been driven by this intense desire to push an element of its agenda in the event of Osama’s death. There was a debate whether India could do an Osama and in this bid to do something similar India put out this list.

What have we got? We have come up a cropper and look like a bunch of nincompoops at the end of it. What makes matters worse is that instead of getting into damage control mode, the debate today has become fractured on political lines. Political entities have seen this as an opportunity to seek resignations. We have no other explanation or response other than seeking resignation.I don’t expect that the cabinet should resign but heads must roll and people must be made accountable in at least such matters.

Kanimozhi- the road ahead

For the Central Bureau of Investigation, the first hurdle has been crossed today in the Kanimozhi case. With the Special CBI court rejecting her bail plea, the interrogation of Kanimozhi will now commence in full swing and the CBI will be inching towards a closure of the chargesheet.

A CBI source said that they are aware that she will explore all other legal options, but the CBI is prepared with a strong case on hand. She has been named as a co-conspirator in the 2G scam case and after the rejection of her bail plea, she has been taken into custody by the CBI.

For the CBI it will now have certain key facts to establish through her interrogation. The bribe of Rs 200 crore, her association with Raja in this case and also the death of Sadiq Batcha in connection with this case. The CBI has not given out any specific time they would need to interrogate her. Taking into consideration the gravity and the magnitude of the case, it is important that there are at least 20 to 25 sittings. More importantly considering the profile of these accused persons, it is important that such people stay behind bars. Their reach is far and could tamper with evidence or even scare the witnesses which could prove fatal to the case.

The road ahead for Kanimozhi is not going to be easy. She has two sets of appeals in her kitty and it is up to her legal team to explore these options. First and foremost she could move the High Court and seek bail. However in the case of such high profile accused, they normally go up to the Supreme Court of India directly, another option which is available after the High Court option is exhausted. However in all likelihood, she may approach the High Court since she would not want to exhaust a legal option without even exploring it.

The judgments in such cases is also something that will not go in her favour. Since the foundation of this case lies on the Prevention of Corruption Act, it is highly unlikely that any of the courts would not go along with the order of the Special CBI court. The accused will apart from seeking bail will also seek a stay on the proceedings against her. However there are judgments which clearly state that no interference shall be there on part of the judicial system when a matter is under investigation. Take a look at Section 19(3) of the prevention of corruption act which has been upheld by the Supreme Court of India. It makes it clear that there shall be no stay on proceedings during investigation unless there are extraneous circumstances. Bail could be a possibility if she is able to prove that she is being wrongly harassed. Even if bail would be granted it would be based on heavy conditions such as not tampering with witnesses and also not to leave the jurisdictional police station limits.

However the argument that will be advanced by the CBI is that they have not acted in haste and with no case. There was ample time given before the arrest was carried out. The case has been built up step by step and only once they were sure did they reveal the name of the accused or even connect her with the case. In addition to this, the CBI will also argue that it is very important that she remains in custody since they would need her for interrogation. In addition to this, there is a chance of her absconding/tampering with evidence or even destroying it if she is let out on bail considering that she is a high profile accused in the case.

FICN, 2G etc etc-D is everywhere

When the Indo-Pak talks recommence the man which India would be seeking the most is Dawood Ibrahim. He is India’s biggest menace and his network continues to be extremely strong in the country and the police force does not appear to be doing enough to stem this rot, the Intelligence Bureau says.

Be it a match fixing scandal, fake currency, drug racket and now the infamous 2G scam, they all have imprints of the notorious Dawood Ibrahim, security agencies point out. Sources say that the talks between the two countries will focus largely on the D factor and India will hand out proof of his existence at Karachi and how he is being sheltered by the ISI.

In the past two weeks, the D gang has figured in two very major incidents. The death of Sadiq Batcha and now the match fixing scandal. When Batcha committed suicide it was said by investigating agencies that there was a huge hawala racket attached to this scam which the police were all set to bust. Unfortunately the name of Dawood figured in this hawala transaction as such things involving such huge chunks of cash can be done only by someone like Dawood and his men. The CBI’s was planning on questioning Balwa whose company the intelligence suspect had links with the D gang.

Proof of the Dawood Ibrahim link to the 2G scam comes out in the open now, with membes of his gang handing out a threat to blow up the CBI office in New Delhi. The CBI is in possession of documents which pin point to the D connection and further probing would have gone on to reveal the exact link between this gang and a host of other Indians who were involved in this scam. The CBI has informed the Ministry of Home affairs regarding this threat and security has been beefed up around the CBI office which houses the documents pertaining to the multi crore 2G scam. In addition to this security has also been beefed up in the other centres of the CBI which is handling the 2G spectrum scam.

The other issue that connects the D gang is the latest revealation of the Australia-Zimbabwe game being fixed. The police have claimed that they picked up three men belonging to the D gang who had fixed the game. The anti corruption wing of the ICC has been informed about the same. It is said that the men indulged in spot fixing as a result of which the Aussies had scored slowly in the first ten overs of the game.

The Aussies have however rubbished this and say that the ICC is not looking into any such charge. Sources however point out that the matter is still in a very preliminary stage and the interrogation of the three men will throw more light on the case. It is hard to come to any conclusion whether the match was fixed or not. The three men who were picked up were in the same hotel to do the same thing that is being alleged. Whether they managed to get access to the players and whether they did finally manage to convince them is something which will trickle in soon.

While there is confusion over the fixing of this game, the security agencies say that the D gang is very much into this business. It is rated at number 3 in their list of notorious activities after fake currency and hawala. They have their men all over the world who manage this business and despite tracking down almost every move, they still do manage to get in touch with the players through international calls which suggests that a large part of the fixing is also done from outside the country.

While these are issues that will come up for discussion during the talks between the two nations, it looks like India is finally accepting that the D gang did have a role to play in the 26/11 attack. Despite the media reporting it over and over again, the investigators had refused to accept that the D gang was even remotely involved in this incident. Today India finds the need to investigate deeper into the D connection to the 26/11 attack. The issue of local help has always been a question mark and despite David Headley singing in front of the NIA, they have never been establish the local link properly. During the talks the D issue will be debated with Pakistan and India will go that extra mile to point out the importance of Dawood.

The IB says that getting Dawood is like almost putting an end to most of India’s troubles. He is a key player in the terrorist rung in India since he continues to be their primary funder. Be it through money earned by drug smuggling or fake currency racket or even a hawala transaction, nearly 40 per cent of this money lands up with the ISI which uses it for terror operations.

India will hand out a dossier which would include the name of Dawood and 400 other terrorists who are believed to be sheltered in Pakistan. Security agencies however say that it appears highly unlikely that Pakistan will hand over custody of Dawood since they would not want the ISI to lose their trump card. His custody would spell doom not only for operations in Pakistan but will also reveal the big names in India who have been associated with him in the past many years.

Aarushi Talwar case, back to square one

The mystery surrounding the Aarushi Talwar case continues to haunt the Central Bureau of Investigation and today when one looks at it, it has come a full circle and is back to where the Noida police left it off.

The case commenced with the Noida police blaming the parents for the murder and when one looks at yesterdays court verdict it is again back to square one. There were various scientific tests conducted in this case and each one had a different version to give out.

However CBI officers investigating the case say that the biggest draw back was the missing weapon which till date has not been recovered. The investigators also claim that there were various versions to this case and hence they were unable to come to any conclusion.

Now with the court ordering that the parents of Aarushi be made accused in this case, the legal battle is sure going to be a long drawn one. The legal team of the Talwars say that they will surely challenge this order and also fight out the case. They further add that they cannot reveal much on this at the moment and still studying the order.

However the CBI which had initially said that there was no evidence against the Talwars have their battle cut out.

The first point of contention is the recovery of the weapon. Explains senior advocate, C V Nagesh who specializes in matters of crime, “ the non recovery of a weapon is not fatal to the case. In such an event one always has to rely upon circumstantial evidence. The prosecution and the investigating agency will now need to form a chain and the weapon is part of this. Now that the weapon has not been found it may have broken this chain but that is not sufficient to give anyone a clean chit.

The motive is something that needs to be proven. The prosecution will first have to explain to the court as to who had the motive. The next line of argument would be that the bodies were found inside the house and the second thing is that the blood stains were wiped out from the scene of the crime. The CBI will argue that no other person had access to the house since it was locked from inside and only the occupants were inside the house. At this point the accused will have to explain their stand and convince the court that the crime and the events leading up to it had taken place in their absence. The CBI will then have to put forth before the court that the events leading were within the exclusive knowledge of the accused persons who were present inside the house.

The CBI will need to build up this chain leading up to the event and then rely on the circumstantial evidence in order to unerringly prove the guilt of the accused persons.

Many a time the CBI has also towed the line of the Noida police in this case. There are many things mentioned by the CBI which point towards the parents which will now have to be argued before the court. At one point of time it was argued that there could have been a possible angle of rape in this case and the private parts and the vaginal swabs of the deceased persons had gone missing. The evidence was wiped out in order to save the family’s honour, the investigators had also claimed. The CBI claimed that the doubt was always towards the members of the family but they were finding it difficult to prove the motive behind this.

Confusion- While both the accused and the CBI gears up to face the court in this case, it may be pertinent to note the amount of confusion there is in this case. Before the court there are the confessional statements of the Talwars, Rajkumar and Shambu. Each one has had something diagonally opposite to say

The first of the scientific tests and the confessions was conducted on Rajkumar who was a domestic help at the the residence of Anita Durani, a family friend of the Talwars. In his confession he states the murder was due to revenge. He states that Krishna a compounder at Dr Talwar’s clinic was humiliated and hence he decided to take revenge by killing the doctor’s daughter.

I was invited by Krishna who stayed at a quarters in the Talwar household. We were drinking together and there was another person by the name Shambu. Krishna told us he was insulted by Talwar. Following that Shambu and Krishna went up to Aarushi’s room and killed her. Hemraj a domestic help at the Talwar house had witnessed this and hence they killed him too.

The next is the confessional statement of Shambu who also goes on to repeat what Krishna had said during the test.

Krishna in another version says that once Rajkumar reached Aarushi’s room he tried to force herself on her. She resisted and in the melee Krishna drew out a dagger and killed her. Hemraj witnessed this and they dragged him to the terrace and killed him.

During this Nupur Talwar was subject to a lie detector test in which she said that her husband had nothing to do with the killing. She was God’s gift to us and we didn’t or would even think of killing her.

Although in all these confessions, there is talk about a weapon, the fact is that till date the investigators have not been able to ascertain that it was the same weapon that was used in the murder. Krishna had even confessed that he had hidden the weapon near the scene of the crime, but the CBI was never able to find it. However a couple of months after the confession they did manage to find the weapon, but the forensics have not yet been able to ascertain that it was the same weapon used to murder Aarushi and Hemraj.

The confusing case of Mecca Masjid

The Swami Aseemanand confession may have brought about a certain amount of clarity in respect to several cases. However doubts continue to linger on in respect of the Mecca Masjid case of Hyderabad which has a long way to go before it is solved completely.

For starters the Mecca Masjid case for some strange reason continues to be divided into two- the case of the exploded bomb and the case of the unexploded bomb.

Speaking to both the Hyderabad police as well as investigators in the CBI who are probing the Mecca Masjid case one gets the impression that there is a long way to go before this case is even cracked.

After the incident took place almost four years back, the Hyderabad police had started investigating the case. However the Muslims felt that they were getting a raw deal out of this since their community was being targeted and there was no way that they could have attacked their religious place of worship. After much pressure the case was handed over to the CBI which has been investigating this case since the past two years now. However this case was split up into two. The CBI commenced investigations of the case pertaining to the exploded bomb. However the police had found a bomb at the Mecca Masjid which did not explode and this case remained with the Hyderabad police.

Today there is pressure building up on the Hyderabad police to give up the case and hand it over to the CBI. Rights activists who have been espousing the cause of the Muslim accused who were booked in this case say that there is no reason why one case should be in the possession of the CBI. The bombs were planted with the same intention and hence it should be under one investigating agency.

The Hyderabad police however say that the very reason why they had retained that particular case was because they were digging more into it. However investigations today show that there is not much progress in that case and the police wants to give it a quietus. An officer in the Hyderabad police however pointed out that most of the officers who were part of the investigation have been transferred and they are now looking into why this case was retained in the first place. They are now waiting for a formal request from the CBI to hand over this part of the case.

The CBI however points out that the primary focus now is on the main portion of the case. The Aseemanand confession has helped the investigating agency a lot and there seems to be a direction they can head in now. The points and angles that the CBI are now looking into are- who planted the bombs at Mecca Masjid and who formed part of the logistic and local help in this case?

While Aseemanand had given bits and pieces of information relating to the Mecca Masjid blasts, the problem before the CBI is to join the dots between Sunil Joshi, Ramji Kalsanghra, Dange with Devendra Gupta and Lokesh Sharma. Gupta and Sharma are part of the chargesheet filed by the CBI. The chargesheet also names Joshi ( now dead), Kalsanghra and Dange as the primary accused both of who are absconding. The CBI says that the dots need to be joined since all these men are not originally from Hyderabad and they could not have carried out such an operation unless they had the support of local forces. The interrogation of Gupta who has been in the custody of the CBI for quite sometime now has not revealed much regarding the local support. The Hyderabad police too have not been able to give much information regarding this aspect. Moreover they have also been questioning Sharma regarding this angle and have not been able to get too much information on the same. However what the CBI has managed to establish is that it is the same set of people who had carried out both the Mecca Masjid as well as the Ajmer blasts. The CBI says that nabbing of Kalsanghra and Dange will give them all the answers and there is already a reward on their heads put out both by the CBI as well as the National Investigating Agency which is probing the Samjautha Blasts.

The Aseemanand confession is just a tip off and there is a lot of ground work that remains to be done in order to bring about a clarity in this case. We need to ascertain for sure who planted the bombs and also find out who was the local help who provided the logistics in this case.

The Civil Liberties Monitoring Committee of India which has been fighting this case since day one says that they did not find the Aseemanand confession one bit surprising since they had been saying the same thing to the police since day one. The fact finding commission relating to the Mecca Masjid case had pointed out that the Hyderabad police were misguiding the investigation and were shielding the accused. The committee says that the confession of Aseemanand is selective in nature since at no point of time does he mention who had supported the group locally.

The CBI however says that such investigations take sometime and the case has not been exactly easy since this is the second time around that the investigation is taking place. The real picture has just started to unfurl and it may be a couple of months more before a final clarity is there in this case and moreover cracking this case also means solving the Ajmer case since both are directly connected.

Malegaon-court will take a final call

Sadhwi Pradnya Thakur. Photo courtesy: http://www.outlookindia.com/
As the Central Bureau of Investigation readies itself to re-investigate the Malegaon bombs blasts case, the focus of the entire nation is upon the agency. The CBI says that it has a Herculean task ahead since it will have to question all the accused once again apart from finding more than what the ATS had already found.

The focus will however be on Sadhwi Pragya Singh Thakur one of the accused in the Malegaon case who was one of the fist persons to be arrested in connection with this case. He statements will be crucial to the investigation. He advocate Ganesh Sovani however points out that they have not decided as yet to challenge the re-investigation of the case. In this interview with rediff.com, he however points out that the CBI has its task cut out but the final call will be taken by the court which can accept or even reject the new line of investigation taken by the CBI.

What are your immediate reactions to the CBI wanting to reinvestigate the Malegaon case?

I am a bit taken aback as the CBI had already taken over the investigation of Malegaon 2006 blast case way back in December, 2008. One wonders, what was it doing since then ? Why should it wait for someone like Swami Assemanand to stake claim by way of his alleged confessional statement in December, 2010.

Do you think the Central Bureau of Investigation will do a better job than the ATS?

It is not a question of good job or bad job. When the ATS Maharashtra had filed charge sheet through Investigation Officer ACP Kisan Shengal on 22.12.2006, it was doing so after a thorough investigation of the crime, in which some Pakistan nationals too are accused. All this had happened when NCP & Congress governments were at Mumbai and Delhi respectively. Now how the ATS investigation of 2006 can be brushed aside simply because some one else (i.e. Sunil @ Manoj Joshi) has made claims about those previous blast before Swami Aseemanand and on the top of that person making such claim is no more alive. So unless there is a corroborative evidence about the alleged claims made by Sunil Joshi, so called confessional statement of Swami has no significance at all.

When the provisions of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crimes Aact have been confirmed in this case is it necessary to have a second investigation?

The legal position is this ever since the charge sheet was filed way back in December, 2006 in this matter. The matter has now come to a standstill and to the best of my knowledge even the charges have not been framed. And none of the accused have even filed any discharge application in it, nor any move has been made for striking off the charge sheet, what we call in legal parlance as (quashing proceeding under section 482 of Cr.P.C). So, ATS investigation of 2006 blast is ‘unchallanged’.

How do you think the confession of Aseemanand will affect this case?

Well, as I said earlier, a confessional statement per se is not sufficient even to convict a person making such statement, simply taking it by its face value. There has to be a corroborative evidence to that effect. Merely because, Swami says now in 2011 that a person who is dead had made some claims, without any corroborative evidence, nothing can affect the earlier investigation.

There is an outcry that some Muslim accused in the Malegaon case have not been released as yet? Could you please explain what will happen to that initial case?

See, the Cr.P.C. provides ‘further investigation’ under section 173 (8), but the concept of ‘fresh’ or ‘re-investigation’ is not incorporated in the law. However, there are some rulings of High Courts and also Hon’ble Supreme Court on it. However, it would be a Herculean task for the investigation agency to come to a ‘diametrical opposite’ conclusion and come out with new findings and obliterate an earlier investigation. It has never happened so, unless any malafide intention or an ulterior motive of earlier investigation agency comes to the fore.

What does your client Sadhvi Pragya Singh have to say about the recent development after Aseemanand?

Well, I haven’t met her since long, as I am in touch through her relatives.

When one looks at the Aseemanand confession it looks very different to what the ATS had said in the initial part of the case. What do you have say about that?

Going by the affidavit reply filed by the ATS in Supreme Court in Sadhwi’s bail by default application, ATS says that Sadhwi’s arrest (which officially) took place on 23.10.2008 was based on two confessional statements made by one Dharmendra Bairagi and Dilip Nahar Vinod Patidar under the same provisions of law before the Metropolitan Magistrate court Girgaum, Mumbai on22.10.2008. However, after they went back to Indore, they filed two respective criminal cases against ATS personnel on 26.11.2008 for alleged torture, intimidation, threatening, etc. before the JMFC, Indore, in which the deceased Hemant Karkare was made as Accused No.1 apart from scores of other officers. While filing those two criminal cases, both have retracted their confessional statements and have narrated all the events under which they were made to confess.

Do you think this case has become a politically motivated one now?

Well, I can’t answer this question, as I don’t hold any brief on behalf of political party.

There has been a lot of talk regarding Indresh Kumar. Why do you think he has not been arrested as yet. Do the rest of the accused including Sadhvi feel let down by this?

If at all Rajasthan ATS would have found out any evidence about Indresh Kumar or any one else, it would have made him or such any other person as accused. But neither Indresh Kumar nor Swami have been shown as ‘wanted accused’, going by Ajmer blast charge sheet. So this is purely an after thought and by taking help of the media, some loose statements are deliberately made to deflect the attention of the people.

Please tell us what your next course of action is. Would you move the higher court against a reinvestigation?

Well, I have no instructions in this regard. Let us see, how the events get unfolded.

Why do you think the CBI wants to reinvestigate the case?

The timing of CBI approaching for the re-investigation could become a top of debate, as it was ‘seized’ with the matter since December, 2008, ever since it took over. The onus is on it to explain, what it did since the last twenty four months? Whether the investigation was taken over merely as a ‘formality’ ?

What is the task ahead of the CBI now?

The CBI will have to gather independent and separate evidence to come to a conclusion that is completely different from the one the ATS has come to. However the final authority lies with the court as it can accept or reject the new findings. The courts have the power to accept the new findings in toto, partially or even reject it completely.

What do you make of the recent controversy regarding the death of Hemanth Karkare and also thr statements by Digvijay Singh?

I would prefer to deal with it separately and not to mix it up with the developments subsequent to Swami’s alleged confessional statement.

The Aseemanand trail

Swami Aseemanand- Photo- Twocircles.net
The confessional statement of Swami Aseemanand has created a stir and for the investigating agencies looking it appears to be a phillip and they claim that this will help the investigation.

Swami Aseemanand who hails from the Hooghly district in West Bengal originally goes by the name Jatin Chatterjee and was also known as Swami Onkarnath in his circles according to the Central Bureau of Investigation. The CBI during their interrogation of Aseemanand found that he was always associated with Hindu outfits and his mindset changed as he felt that there were too many atrocities against Hindus being carried out by Pakistan based groups and it was necessary that there was retaliation.

What is important is that the CBI now links Aseemanand to the Malegaon, Ajmer, Mecca Masjid and Samjautha blasts case. A confession of is recorded by the Magistrate is what the CBI has pinned its hope on where the God man explains in detail the modus operandi behind these operations. While a confession statement is admissible as evidence, the job of the investigating agency does not end there and they will still have to prove before court that he has actually been involved in these cases. In addition to this there is also an argument on in various courts whether an accused can retract a confessional statement given before a Magistrate.

Swami Aseemanand in his confession goes on to say that it was the attack at the Akshardham temple which made him change his mind and this was precisely the time when a lot of people came together and decided that the time had come to retaliate.

During my various meetings with people I expressed my anger against attacks on temples and it was in the year 2003 that for the first time I came in contact with Sunil Joshi and Pragya Singh Thakur. We discussed many times about the manner in which Islamic Terrorists carried out attacks on temples and people. It was only in the year 2006 when the Sankatmoc-han temple was attacked did Joshi decide that the time had come to hit back.

Investigations so far have shown that Joshi was given Rs 25000 by Aseemanand to carry out an attack. In the month of June 2006, Sadhvi, Joshi and I met at a house in Valsad and chalked out the plan. During the meeting four others, Dange, Lokesh, Kalsanghra and Amit came along with Joshi. During the meeting we decided on the targets and I had told all of them that a bombing should be retaliated with another bombing. We then decided to target Malegaon which had a strong Muslim population. In addition to this we also decided that we would carry out attacks at Mecca Masjid since many people in Hyderabad subscribed to the views of Pakistan. Then we also planned on the Ajmer blasts as we felt that many Hindus visited this place and a bombing would prevent them from going there in future.

While I suggested these targets, it was Joshi who came up with the plan of carrying out a blast on the Samjautha express. His view was that many Pakistanis travel by that train and it would be the best way to take revenge against Pakistan and hence an attack should be carried out. There was a consensus at that meeting and we decided to go ahead with the plan.

Following this meeting three teams were formed to execute these attacks. One of the teams would arrange finances while the other two would execute the attack and also make arrangements for the explosives. In so far as the Samjautha blasts were concerned it was Dange who made these arragements.

Investigating agencies say that the role played by these persons in the Malegaon, Ajmer and Mecca Masjid blasts is quite clear. However the details are not too forthcoming with the Samjautha case which is presently being investigated by the NIA.

It was God man Dayananand pandey who for the first time spilled the beans on this case and said that it was the same people who had carried out the Samjautha blasts. In addition to this the Maharashtra ATS too had claimed that Colonel Purohith had procured 60 kgs of RDX for these blasts, but until date no investigating agency has been able to prove this fact.

Aseemanand goes on to say in the month of February 2007 he met with Joshi at a temple in Balpur. At that meeting he told me that some important news would break out in the next couple of days. A few days later I read in the newspapers that the Samjautha blasts had taken place and later Joshi told me that it was his men who carried out the attack. Later on I gave Joshi some money for the Hyderabad Mecca Masjid blasts and this too was executed as was planned.

The CBI investigation of Aseemanad may have revealed a lot of facts, but it continues to remain unclear as to how Colonel Purohith was involved in this case. It is now up to the NIA to investigate this aspect and they would question both Aseemanand and Purohith in this regard.

Aseemanand told the CBI that he first came in contact with Purohith four years back. Purohith was part of Abhinav Bharath and during the various meetings with him they discussed on carrying out terror strikes.

The NIA now has its task cut out. Sources say that apart from investigating the Aseemanand angle to the Samjautha blasts, they would also look into a possible role that he could have played in the Goa blasts as well.

The sad case of our cyber security

How safe are our systems? Pic-utsa.net

Three days gone and the website of the Central Bureau of Investigation is still down. When queried about the same, the answer was work was still on and more importantly the investigation was on in full swing.

It is an established fact that the hacking of the CBI website was the handi work of the Pakistan Cyber Army. Looking back at this attack there are many points that come to light and cyber security experts point out that the most disturbing of all the facts on the cyber security front is that the government of India is yet to notify a large number of sensitive websites as protected systems.

The amendment to the Information Technology Act made a provision for the government to notify all sensitive sites under it as protected systems. Under this provision, a mere attempt to access a protected system would invite a jail term of up to ten years. This would not deter a Pakistani from hacking the website under the classification of a protected system, but within the country the systems would be much more secure.

Pavan Duggal, an expert on cyber security tells rediff.com that most of the highly sensitive websites in India which are under the government ofIndia are not notified as protected systems. The IT act says that any person trying to even access the site under this category will imprisoned for ten years. The fact that the government has not done this despite the act being in place for nearly two years only speaks about the seriousness in fighting cyber crime.

The attack on the CBI site brought into question an important fact whether India has its own Cyber Army. India does have a set of ethical hackers who are meant to protect our systems. However there are a lot of issues that surround this and one ethical hacker who did not wish to be named pointed out the following problems that they face.<

He says that they do not enjoy the patronage of the government. The much needed security that they ought to have has not been provided by the government. This is in total contrast of the Pakistan Cyber Army which enjoys the complete patronage of both the Government and the ISI.

In addition to this some of the ethical hackers in India who were supposed to work for the government have complained about too much police interference. Very recently there was an incident in which the police had issued a couple of directions to the ethical hackers. These persons say that they were upset with this kind of interference and they should not be told how to go about their job. This kind of kills our motivation and we feel that our own system is against us. Our job requires precision and a lot of dedication and at times we would suo motu indicate the problems faced by the Indian systems. However there was not much reaction to this and we have been clearly told that we need to work when we are asked to work.<

Duggal points out that there are plenty of ethical hackers in India. However we do not have a cyber army in that sense of the word. It is high time that India thinks in that direction in order to act pro actively to protect our sovereign interests.

Look at the case of the CBI website. It has been four days and it is still not up when it should have been done in three hours time. The message we have sent out is loud and clear that we lack a pro active national cyber strategy on cyber crime. Moreover the Pakistanis have exploited our security loop holes and we are only showing how weak we are by undertaking the restoration process so late.

The Intelligence Bureau on the other hand has been constantly warning against such attacks. It has been more of a challenge this time, but there could well be a situation where our crucial data is accessed. A fully functional and dedicated cyber army is very much required and it should comprise IT professionals. It is more important that they constantly work towards securing our web sites than hack into systems of our neighbouring nations.

Meanwhile the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) says that it is developing a mechanism to make websites hack proof. The DRDO pointed out that cyber security is a major concern for national security and feels that they could develop hacking proof devices.

Read More: Cyber War-Where does India Stand?

Cyber War-Where does India Stand?

The Hacked CBI Website

The website of the Central Bureau of Investigation, India’s premier investigation agency was hacked by the Pakistan Cyber Army. The website had the message from the PCA that this was being done to avenge the hacking of Pakistan government websites by the Indian Cyber Army.
The message on the CBI website also mock the agency for the lack of security and also questioned the manner in which the National Informatics Centre had put in place the security to safeguard government websites.
Immediate measures have been taken to rectify the problem since the website of the CBI is not only connected to all police stations in the country, but also directly linked to the Interpol. There is heavy damage control exercise which is on at the moment since there is crucial data on this website. The data contains records of wanted criminals and terrorists and this information is linked with the Interpol.
The attack comes close on the heels of a major warning by intelligence agencies that Indian government websites will come under severe attack by Pakistan based hackers. The IB had warned that Pakistan would launch a major cyber war and this could be a continous process and immediate steps had to be taken to secure our servers and websites.
The Pakistan Cyber Army which is the most lethal of the three Pakistan based hacking groups claims to have come into force after their websites were hacked. They say that the Indians had hacked into Oil and Gas Regulatory website in Pakistan. In an immediate retort they hacked into the website of the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation.
India has been trying to put in place its own set of hackers. The core job of this group would not be to hack into websites of other countries, but to secure hackers from other countries from entering into our sites.
Currently India has a set of hackers who have capabilities, but the problem is that there is a need for a government clearance to get them to do the job legally. The advantage that a PCA has is that they enjoy the support of security agencies and hence they appear to be in a stronger position today. The IB says that it is not sufficient to rely on the government machinery, but experts from the private sector need to be brought in to secure Indian websites.
Experts point out that there is a need to put in place a dedicated cyber army to protect India’s websites. We have seen many attacks in the past and we should consider ourselves lucky that no serious damage has been done as yet. At the moment they only want to show that our system is weak and it is more of a game for them.