In an earlier report, we had elaborated on Adil Shahryar’s links to former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Many believe that Rajiv Gandhi, the father of the current Congress President Rahul Gandhi, helped Warren Anderson, the then CEO of Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), escape after the Bhopal Gas Tragedy in a quid pro quo deal with the Americans for the release of his convicted childhood friend, Adil Shahryar.
Apart from the above-mentioned occasion, there was another instance where another scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, Sanjay Gandhi, indulged in apparent misconduct at Shahryar’s behest. It’s related to the arrest of a member of the Planning Commission and his subsequent release by the Delhi High Court. Raj Prakash Varshney was arrested in February 1977, towards the end of the Emergency.
Varshney was a member of the Planning Commission as Director (Metals) when he was arrested in February 1977 under the Official Secrets Act. The first order of his detention was passed by the Additional District Magistrate, New Delhi on the 11th of February, 1977. On the 21st of March, a fresh order of detention was issued as the Act under which he was held in detention earlier had lapsed due to the revocation of the Emergency. A month later, on the 21st of April, another order of detention was issued as the provisions under which he was held in detention by the earlier order had also lapsed.
On the 25th of April, he filed a petition to the Delhi High Court, where he made some startling claims. Varshney claimed that during his time at the Planning Commission, he was tasked with ascertaining the technical feasibility of a proposal to set up a sponge iron plant by the Andhra Pradesh Industrial Corporation aided by the United Nations Development Programme. The proposal was based on technology provided by the Allis Chalmers Corporation (ACC) of the United States of America.
Varshney, who had considerable experience in the field, asserted in Court that he rejected the proposal as he did not find it worth accepting. He claims that he was pressurized to approve the proposal as Adil Shahryar was the representative of ACC in India. Varshney claimed that Shahryar got Sanjay Gandhi involved who insisted upon him to give a clean chit to the proposal. And when he still refused, they had a case registered against him under the Official Secrets Act and arrested him and humiliated him.
Respondents 4 and 5 in the above picture are Adil Shahray and Sanjay Gandhi respectively.
Varshney claimed that threats were issued against his wife and children to force him into confessing that he was supplying sensitive information and documents to an agent of a foreign country. He also accused the Additional District Magistrate of New Delhi, the Central Government and the Delhi Administration of being complicit with Shahryar and Sanjay Gandhi.
The Additional District Magistrate, New Delhi, who is Respondent No. 1 in the petition filed by Varshney, passed the order of detention under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA). The MISA was an extremely controversial law passed by the Indian Parliament in 1971 which gave the administration of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the law enforcement agencies unlimited power to quash dissent. It gave the administration the authority to hold citizens in indefinite preventive detention, search and seize property without warrants and wiretapping.
The MISA Act gave the government of India unprecedented power to curtail the constitutional rights of Indian citizens. It was amended on several occasions during the Emergency and was ultimately repealed when the Janata Party came to power in 1977. Hundreds and thousands of people were arrested under the Act as Indira Gandhi cracked down on her political opponents.
The Bench of the Delhi High Court, while hearing Varshney’s petition, made some scathing observations in its judgment on the conduct of the detaining authority, the Additional District Magistrate, New Delhi. The Court declared that although it could not be proven that the ADM acted “to oblige” Adil Shahryar and Sanjay Gandhi, her order was definitely in “bad faith”. The Court also observed that the continued detention of Varshney was mala fide.
It stated, “The first respondent (ADM, New Delhi) may have acted innocently but in the circumstances of the case must be held to have acted in bad faith. It is true that we are concerned with bad faith of the detaining authority and no one else in this case but we are of the view that the impugned order is vitiated because of malice in law. Although the petitioner’s allegations that the first respondent issued the impugned orders to oblige respondents 4 and 5 have not been proved, yet the order must be held to be vitiated on account of the vice of bad faith.”
It was further stated that the ADM was satisfied with the report from the Superintendent of Police without making any inquiry into the matter. The Court thus stated, “Preventive detention is a serious matter and not to be indulged in as a matter of routine and merely because a higher authority or some other authority requests a detaining authority to invoke the power vested in it.”
The Court also observed, “The grounds of detention communicated to the petitioner do not set out, indeed it was not even known to the detaining authority, as to what was the nature of the documents which were allegedly communicated to the agent of a foreign power, how many documents were given, what information was passed on and to whom. The grounds communicated thus suffer from a serious defect, viz., lack of particulars or vagueness.” Thus, the Court directed the concerned authorities to release Varshney.
It’s true that the Court judged that Varshney’s claims that he was arrested and humiliated at the behest of Shahryar and Sanjay Gandhi could not be proven. However, given the Court’s evaluation of the ADM’s conduct, it appears there were certain higher powers at work. The reputation of the Gandhi Parivar and their history is such that it appears extremely plausible that Varshney’s version of events was correct.
As we have mentioned in our earlier report, Shahryar was convicted of extremely serious crimes in the United States. Shahryar was found guilty on five counts, including felony and fraud, by a Florida District Court. He was held guilty of attempting to firebomb a ship and was charged with defrauding shipping authorities and the American Express International Banking Corporation.
Shahryar’s father was Muhammad Yunus, an Indian civil servant and former ambassador to Turkey, Indonesia, Iraq and Spain. Yunus was a close associate of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Shahryar was serving a 35-year old sentence in the USA when President Ronald Raegan issued a Presidential pardon, merely months after Anderson’s escape.