February 23, 2006 at 0547 hours IST
That note came in August 2005, ironically, a month after the case had already been revived by the Allahabad High Court which set aside the 2003 discharge order—at the instance of two private citizens Haji Mehboob and Hafiz Siddiq—and asked Advani to report to the trial court. The High Court also criticized the CBI’s role in the case.
This is the second time the UPA intervened in the case.
The first was on December 8, 2004, when Pulok Chatterjee, Joint Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office, wrote to Secretary, Personnel, raising the same questions. This sparked off a political storm in Parliament prompting Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee to deny any attempt to armtwist the CBI in the Ayodhya case. But despite this assurance, on August 12, 2005, a second letter was sent from the Department of Personnel, this time addressed directly to Mishra.
Express has accessed official records which show that the UPA’s second confidential letter (S-22/AS(S&V)/2005) was written by B K Das, an Additional Secretary in the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT). It raps the CBI for making “no comments on specific points” (points raised in the PMO’s controversial letter).
And then categorically asks the CBI Director to explain why a revision petition wasn’t filed. It lists specific points on which Mishra is asked to reply: What were the “internal deliberations” in the CBI?
• What’s the “sequence of events” that led to the decision to refer the matter to the Attorney General (then Soli Sorabjee)?
• At what level was it decided not to file an appeal?
• What is the internal mechanism within CBI to take decisions regarding whether or not to file appeals?
• Clarify if the CBI chose to consult the Attorney General/Department of Law only in this case or does it do so in all cases? Give examples
• Why does the agency call the case “complex and sensitive?”
• Send the opinions of Attorney General and Shri N Natarajan “with your comments.”
CBI officials say that such direct inquisition by the DoPT (which has administrative control of the CBI) is unprecedented. Misra’s three-page reply, sent to Secretary, Personnel in end-October, argues that the agency followed “well-established” systems and procedures in matters related to appeals.
The CBI outlined how it based its decision on legal opinion given by the Government’s Law officers, including then Attorney General Soli Sorabjee and Solicitor General Kirit Raval.
The CBI cited the opinion of Director of Prosecution S K Sharma, (an officer in the Ministry of Law) that to a “considerable extent” the prosecution was on a “weak wicket in view of the important fact that the exact provocative words used by Mr L K Advani were absent in the statements of witnesses.”
In view of this, then CBI Director P C Sharma, in an order dated December 4, 2003, referred the matter to Sorabjee. A week later, Sorabjee told the CBI that to “obviate needless controversies,” the agency should seek the opinion of N Natarajan, an eminent senior counsel.
On December 17, 2003, Natarajan sent his opinion: “The conduct of Shri L K Advani and the circumstances of the case show that he did not have any common object in demolishing the Babri Masjid.’’
This opinion was then sent by CBI Director U S Mishra to Solicitor General Kirit Raval, who in his letter dated December 26, 2003 advised the CBI to, ‘‘act in accordance with the opinion of Shri Natarajan, Senior Advocate.’