The time when Indira Gandhi used CBI to destroy 4 government officers ‘socially, physically and morally’

The Shah Commission concluded that there was a "gross abuse of the authority" vested in Indira Gandhi as the Prime Minister of the Country. It also concluded she had pressurized the Director of CBI into harassing the officers.

In an earlier report, we elaborated on the manner in which former Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, forced the Punjab National Bank to pay an overdraft to the Associate Journals Ltd., a party owned entity, without any security. There’s no knowledge of the money every being repaid at all. In another report, we elaborated on the crony capitalism that through which Indira Gandhi benefited Maruti.

Today, we shall pour over the pages of the Shah Commission’s report once again which was formed to investigate the excesses committed during the Emergency. We shall discuss one specific chapter where four senior officials of the Government of India were harassed and humiliated by Indira Gandhi using the CBI as a tool. And once again, we shall see that Maruti Private Ltd. finds itself at the heart of the story.

The Beginning

In 1975, a question was asked by Member of Parliament Jyotirmoy Basu regarding the import of machinery by Maruti. Four officers of the ministries, Krishnaswamy (Deputy Secretary, Heavy Industries), A.S. Rajan (Development Officer, DGTD), L.R. Cavele (Chief Marketing Manager, PEC) and P.S. Bhatnagar (Deputy Marketing Manager, PEC) were collecting information to enable the concerned Minister to provide an adequate answer to the question.

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Between April 9 and 14, 1975, Krishnaswamy, Rajan and Bhatnagar contacted Maruti and Batliboi and Company during the process of gathering information. At least Maruti did not provide the information that was asked of them. What followed is a twisted story of gross abuse of power and the harassment of officers who, on the basis of evidence, committed no crime at all.

On the 14th of April, 1975, the Minister of Heavy Industries, T.A. Pai, was contacted by R.K. Dhawan, Additional Private Secretary to the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and complained against the officers in his ministry who were collecting information from Batliboi. Dhawan then called Rajan and Bhatnagar himself and directed them to stop collecting information on the concerned matter. Cavale too received a call from N.K. Singh, Special Assistant to the Commerce Minister, demanding to know what transpired regarding the question on the import of machinery by Maruti.

Pai was then summoned to her residence by Indira Gandhi. According to Pai, she was “completely upset and furious”. She claimed that the management of Batliboi was harassed by officers from his ministry. She then directed Dhawan to contact D. Sen, then Director of the CBI, and instruct the latter to initiate inquiries into the conduct of these officers and raid their houses. She also instructed D.P. Chattopadhyay, then Minister for Commerce, to initiate inquiries into the conduct of Bhatnagar who had harassed certain parties.

The Harassment

Chattopadhyay ordered disciplinary proceedings to be initiated against Bhatnagar. He admitted in testimony before the Commission that he took Indira Gandhi’s words as gospel truth on the matter and he relied on his conviction that the Prime Minister would have complete knowledge on the matter and thus, did not bother to verify the information that he had received. Bhatnagar was suspended on the 15th of April and he was informed of it at around 10 p.m. at night.

Pai, on the other hand, did call his officers and discussed the matter with them. He also contacted the management of Batliboi. After his communication with both parties involved, he was convinced that there was no substance in the allegations levelled against his officers.

After receiving the Prime Minister’s instructions through her Additional Private Secretary, the Director of CBI, Sen, contacted the Deputy Director of the Intelligence Cell, Rajpal on the 15th of April and instructed him to verify the information against Krishnaswamy, Rajan and Bhatnagar. Rajpal was informed by Sen that these men were corrupt and possessed assets disproportionate to their income. He was instructed to submit his report within five days following which Rajpal directed his subordinates to collect the information and start surveillance. On the 17th of April, cases were formally registered against Bhatnagar and Rajan under the Prevention of Corruption Act. A day later, their residences were searched by CBI officers.

Cavale was transferred to Chennai from Delhi. He decided to not suffer the insult lying down. P.J. Fernandes, Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, took up the matter with the Chairman of the STC. The Chairman informed him that he was helpless and was only following instructions from superiors. Cavale was advised by the Chairman to accept the transfer order to avoid further “complications and possible harassment”. On the 21st, the CBI started their verification of him and he was put on surveillance. And although the inquiry against him did not reveal anything incriminating, six days later, the Director of CBI ordered the registration of a preliminary inquiry against him.

According to K. Vijayan, Superintendent of Police, he was pressured by Joint Director A.B. Chaudhary to write a note suggesting a search on Cavale’s house. Vijayan thus recorded the note and on the basis of this note, Cavale’s residence was searched on the 3rd of May and a case was registered against him for investigation under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Ultimately, after he was asked to resign, Cavale finally succumbed under pressure and tendered his resignation.

A similar fate awaited Krishnaswamy. Only in his case, his wife and his parents would be dragged through the mud as well. Without sufficient evidence, Sen registered a preliminary inquiry against him on the 27th of April. On the 3rd of May, his residence was searched. The Deputy Director of Intelligence had repeatedly told Sen that Krishnaswamy had a good reputation, had a moderate standard of living and he came from a well-off family. Despite Rajpal’s words, the Director of CBI threw caution to the wind. Krishnaswamy eventually went on a 4-month leave due to the harassment which was extended on half-pay. He was ultimately reverted to his parent cadre, the Railways.

Another case was registered against him by the Delhi Police on the insistence of the CBI under the Excise Act for possession of liquor beyond the permissible limit. In the end, however, the Trial Court did not find him guilty of any violation and acquitted him on the 4th of March, 1977.

The Commission’s Conclusions

The Commission reached some pretty damning conclusions. It reached the conclusion that officers from Batliboi were not harassed. Two representatives from the company denied that the officers had insulted anyone and asserted that they had not complained about it to anyone.

The Commission also concluded that there was a “gross abuse of the authority” vested in Indira Gandhi as the Prime Minister of the Country. It also concluded she had pressurized the Director of CBI into harassing the officers.

The Commission also held Indira Gandhi directly responsible for the filing of false cases against the officers and their humiliation. It also concluded that she did so because the information being collected could prove detrimental to Maruti. The report states, “…merely because they were responsible for collecting information in the discharge of their duties which would have been prejudicial to the interests of Maruti Limited, a concern in which Shri Sanjay Gandhi, her son, was vitally interested.”

It was emphatically concluded by the Commission that “there was nothing against any of these officers except the vague complaints if at all, allegedly made by the MPs and conveyed to the Director, CBI by Shri Dhawan at the instance of the Prime Minister.” It also lamented that “the CBI had destroyed these officers socially, physically and morally”.

A Pattern of Behaviour

In light of these revelations, it appears pretty clear that the Gandhi Parivar has toyed with every machinery of the state to destroy the lives of honest men and men of integrity in order to preserve their own interests. It appears ironical that the scion of the Gandhi Parivar, Rahul Gandhi, now accuses the NDA government of compromising our agencies. Perhaps Rahul Gandhi is aware of the history of his own family and therefore, assumes that the manner in which his family has conducted itself is the natural way for people to behave when in power.

The corruption during Indira Gandhi’s regime was such that even the American Embassy and people from other global agencies were in shock. A WikiLeaks cable revealed that bribery was rampant, no major figure could be charged with her approval and she went against her political opponents very harshly while excusing the enormous corruption within her own ranks. The money earned through bribery was deposited in the party funds, it is said, with a cut for the collector.

Indira Gandhi’s era was dark indeed and corruption certainly contributed as much to the darkness that the Emergency did.

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