Monday, June 24, 2024

L.N. Mishra case is an eye-opener


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CBI has no independent entity

By Amulya Ganguli

Some idea of the reason why the government has been so reluctant to relinquish control over the CBI in favour of the Lokpal can be gauged from the Supreme Court’s recent expression of outrage over the fact that the assassination of L.N. Mishra has remained unsolved for 37 years. As the details revealed during a recent hearing of the case show, a 27-year-old advocate, who was arrested in connection with the murder, is now 64 years old and is a heart patient. Of the 39 witnesses cited by him to prove his innocence, 31 have died and as many as 22 judges have handled the case in various stages.

Although the court has sought the CBI’s explanation for the inordinate delay, it is unlikely that it will receive a credible reply. The reason is that although the court had called for a day-to-day hearing of the case two decades ago, the order was ignored. What is evident is that influential elements have been more interested in a cover-up than in nailing of the guilty. Otherwise, the CBI’s tardiness is inexplicable. And, if influential elements have been interested in ringing the curtains down on the episode, the reason can only be that an unbiased probe will reveal uncomfortable truths about the political establishment.

Such a surmise can be made because Mishra himself was a front-ranking politician. If his assassination was the handiwork of a deranged individual, the case would have been quickly solved. But the mystery is not only the 37 years that have passed without a solution, but also what happened when the former railway minister was injured in a bomb blast at a public function at the Samastipur railway station when he was inaugurating a broad-gauge line to Muzaffarpur.

Despite his injuries, he was put in a slow train to Danapur near Patna and he died after three days. Those behind the explosion clearly did want him to survive. Typically, Indira Gandhi blamed “foreign elements” for the death while L.N.’s brother, Jagannath Mishra, who later became Bihar’s chief minister, saw a wider conspiracy. However, he described as “concocted” the allegation that L.N. was the conduit through which the KGB transferred money to the Congress. He admitted, however, that L.N. had brought the CPI closer to the Congress.

What these bits and pieces of information underline is the shadowy world of politics with hints of espionage of which the ordinary mortal can have no idea. Given this atmosphere of a mystery thriller, it was only natural that a murder should have taken place. But, unlike the standard whodunits, the killer hasn’t yet been traced. What is disturbing, however, is the belief that the failure is not the result of inefficient investigations, but the possibility that the CBI’s hands were tied behind its back.

The assassination, which took place in 1975, is not the only instance of the CBI’s failure – if it can be called that. The same is true of the Bofors scandal, which surfaced in 1987 and hasn’t yet led to any incarceration. It cannot be gainsaid that political upheavals would have followed any unhindered investigations into these two cases. The only conclusion, therefore, can be that these episodes are a pointer to the factors which persuade the ruling class, irrespective of the parties, to retain control over the CBI to prevent it from embarrassing the politicians.

What is true of the CBI is also true of the police. Hence, the lack of response from the state governments to the Supreme Court’s directive of 2006 to insulate the police from political influence. If such an arrangement was in operation, the Gujarat police would not have closed 2,000-odd cases of arson, rape and murder during the 2002 riots on the grounds of lack of evidence, compelling the Supreme Court to reopen all of them and even hold the trials of some of the major cases outside the state. Just as the charges against the DMK’s M.K. Azhagiri had to be investigated in Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh since the courts in his home ground of Madurai were not expected to function impartially. Similarly, the case against the ABVP accused in the death of Prof H.S. Sabharwal in Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh had to be conducted in Nagpur in Maharashtra.

The Left, too, are guilty of the same practice of using the police for partisan purposes. This was the state of affairs in West Bengal throughout the three decades it was in power. The climax of this misuse, which sealed its fate, was the “invasion” of Nandigram by motorcycle-borne armed Marxist militias while the police acted as spectators. If, in the more idealistic days immediately after independence, steps were taken by the political class to ensure that the police and the CBI acted in a professional manner, there would have been no need for a Lokpal. (IPA Service)

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