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Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Prashant Bhushan Blames Government for Doctored CD

Leaders of activist Anna Hazare’s anticorruption movement have been embroiled in all sorts of controversy of late. But what looked like a scandal earlier in the year may now be put to rest.

In April, a CD landed in the hands of local media purportedly recording Shanti Bhushan, a Supreme Court lawyer and former law minister, discussing the possibility of bribing a judge in a phone conversation. This happened days after Mr. Hazare’s first anticorruption hunger strike, raising questions on whether the leaked CD was intended to harm the reputation of Mr. Hazare’s movement. Mr. Bhushan was involved in the drafting of Mr. Hazare’s proposed anticorruption legislation that is still today working its way through Parliament.

At the time, Mr. Bhushan slammed  the CD as a forgery and denounced its contents as defamatory. He filed a complaint to Delhi Police shortly after the CD’s dissemination.

A report by Chandigarh’s Central Forensic Science Laboratory on the CD’s recordings, which was recently made public, concludes that the CD recording “is not original and it is a post production edited version.” The report, addressed to Delhi Police and dated May 2, 2011, points at several signs of “proficient editing,” including the abrupt start of the conversation and the same audio bites appearing more than once.

The report contradicts the findings of the separate, Delhi-based Central Forensic Science Laboratory. It said the CD had not been doctored. In August, Delhi Police cited the results of the Delhi lab’s report in a bid to dismiss  Mr. Bhushan’s forgery allegations.
Mr. Bhushan’s son Prashant, a lawyer and key aide to Mr. Hazare, was quick to see these recent revelations as proof of an anti-Team Anna conspiracy. He dismissed the Delhi report as “dishonest” and said Delhi Police, pressed by the government, withheld the content of the Chandigarh report on purpose.

“The interest taken by the Home Minister P. Chidambaram in this matter and the [Prime Minister’s Office] in revealing the Delhi CSFL report while withholding the Chandigarh CFSL report shows that the Government is behind the dissemination of this fabrication, if not the actual fabrication itself. This was the beginning of the repeated attempts by the Government to defame important members of the anti-corruption campaign – an attempt which continues till this day,” he wrote in a statement on Sunday.

He complained that in response to a Right-to-Information request, Delhi Police had initially only made the Delhi forensic report public. The contents of the Chandigarh report — shared by the younger Bhushan on Sunday — was released after the Central Information Commission, the guardians of India’s RTI Act, intervened, according to Prashant Bhushan.

The report likely comes as welcome news for Team Anna, whose members have recently found themselves in a flurry of scandals and controversies, ranging from Arvind Kejriwal’s tax dues , to Kiran Bedi’s alleged misappropriation  of travel funds, to Anna Hazare’s speaking in favor of flogging  as a form of punishment.
Should further examinations confirm the findings of the Chandigarh report, the government and Delhi Police will be expected to come up with a good explanation for why it was not released earlier.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office was not immediately able to comment on the matter. Spokesmen for the Home Ministry and for Delhi Police declined to comment.


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