He’s afraid. Very afraid: Snoopgate cop won’t reveal Saheb’s identity
Suspended cop G L Singhal, who taped ex-Gujarat home minister telling him that ‘Saheb’ wanted the woman tailed at all times, strikes a deal to save policemen close to him from persecution
Deepal Trivedi @timesgroup.com , Mumbai Mirror
The identity of the ‘Saheb’, who in 2009 ordered the then Gujarat minister of state for home Amit Shah to deploy cops to tail a woman 24 X 7, is likely to remain a mystery.
Mumbai Mirror can reveal that suspended IPS officer G L Singhal, who was used by Shah to have the woman watched over at all times, even when she was travelling, will tell the
Sugnya Bhatt Commission appointed to probe the scandal that he does not know who ‘Saheb’ was.
In all the 267 audio tapes of his conversations with Shah that Singhal has submitted to the CBI, the then home minister who is now Modi’s campaign manager in Uttar Pradesh is heard saying that ‘Saheb’ wants every single detail of the woman’s movements, placesshevisits,andpeopleshemeets. Shah does not, however, even once mention the ‘Saheb’ by his name.
With Singhal set to tell the commission that he never tried to find out who the ‘Saheb’ was or why he was so besotted with this woman, the probe into the Snoopgate, as the scandal has cometobeknown,islikelytojustslam shut. Singhal has so far deposed only once before the commission only to seek more time to submit evidence.
The term of the Inquiry Commission ends on May 31, but it can get an extension.
Singhal’s volte-face is significant in the light of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhirecentlyrakingupthescandal to question Modi’s and Gujarat’s record on women’s safety.
While Singhal declined to commentonhisU-turn,anIPSofficerclose to him said his feigning ignorance aboutSaheb’sidentityisapartofadeal to save at least seven policemen close to him from being persecuted by the state government. Already, Bharat Patel,ajuniorofficerknownforhisproximity to Singhal, has been rehabilitated and posted as an inspector in Prantij in Sabarkantha. “Patel’s rehabilitation is a signal that more things Singhal desires will follow”, the officer said.
He said that Singhal’s decision has also been influenced by the way the CBI has handled the Ishrat Jahan ‘fake encounter’ case, in which he is an accused. Ishrat, a 19-year-old Mumbra girl, and her three friends were killed by a special team of Gujarat’s Anti Terrorist Squad in what was alleged to be a fake encounter. Singhal then was the Anti-Terrorist Squad chief and had led the encounter.
Though Singhal cooperated with the agency and handed over crucial evidence against Shah, the latter was not arrested. “Singhal feels that the Snoopgate probe will also follow the same path. Also, Singhal and his men hadnotenvisagedsuchawaveforModi in the forthcoming elections. In these circumstances, the best option was to strike a deal,” a lawyer close to Singhal said.
The Sugnya Bhatt Commission, because it was appointed by the Gujaratgovernment,isitselfunderacloud. The two-member commission, comprising former High Court judge Sugnya Bhatt and former additional chief secretary (home) K C Kapoor, was appointed on November 26, 2013.
The commission so far has not made a single announcement about theprogressoftheinquiry.Itsfirsttenure expired in February, but was given an extension.
JournalistAshishKhaitan,whoexposed the scandal by revealing the contents of the taped conversations between Singhal and Shah, has deposed before the commission, but has claimed that its purpose seemed more to grill journalists than to probe the state government.
Pradeep Sharma, a suspended IAS officer, who has claimed that he was victimised because he knew of the relationship between the ‘Saheb’ and the woman who was put under surveillance, has blamed the Modi government for trespassing on the young woman’s privacy.