Meet BK Prasad, the official in the eye of the Ishrat Jahan probe storm
While there was no proof to back their claim, a lot of people had claimed that the inquiry into the missing papers in the Ishrat Jahan case was politically motivated.
By showing the previous Congress-led UPA government to have watered down its affidavit against Ishrat Jahan, the BJP could have again asserted its nationalistic credentials, and the Congress's soft corner for Islamic terror.
But the Indian Express report - that the head of the inquiry committee was tutoring witnesses - has destroyed the credentials of the government-appointed committee. The heat is back on the NDA government, and more specifically, on Braj Kishore Prasad, the official in question.
Man who led crackdown on NGOs
Reactions started pouring in soon after the story emerged on the morning of Thursday, 16 June.
For Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, who is also the secretary of the human rights NGO Lawyers Collective, Thursday's news was vindication. The Lawyers Collective had received several notices for alleged financial irregularities under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act [FCRA] from the Ministry of Home Affairs, and Prasad was the additional secretary in charge of the 'foreigners' division.
In a Facebook post, Jaising said Prasad's conduct was an example of a 'systematic erosion of the rule of law, to demonise anyone who is opposed to the policies of the ruling party'.
"BK Prasad is the same officer in charge of FCRA and he is the one who took the decision to suspend the registration of the Lawyers Collective. He seems to have mastered the art of manipulating inquiries. We have called for an immediate revocation of the suspension in the light of this report as well.
"It is not about the money but about the systematic erosion of the rule of law to demonise anyone who is opposed to the policies of the ruling party. We will challenge the suspension order on the ground that it is vitiated due to malice and bias."
The Home Ministry had also cancelled the registration of Teesta Setalvad's NGO, Sabrang Trust, which was also being sent notices for FCRA irregularities. It is not clear if Prasad was responsible for this move too.
Prasad is a 1983 batch IAS officer of the Tamil Nadu cadre. He has been in the news earlier as well.
Family members of senior MHA official Anand Joshi, arrested by the CBI for illegally sending FCRA notices to NGOs, had demanded action against Prasad. Joshi's wife Minakshi had alleged that while her husband was suffering from depression for the last two to three years, it was Prasad who had forced her husband to send notices to some NGOs and favour some others.
A while ago, an RTI applicant had also sought information the Prasad committee report on the Ishrat Jahan case. Prasad had instead asked him to prove his Indian citizenship before disclosing details. "It is a way to block free flow of information and transparency by the government. Seeking proof of Indian citizenship must be discouraged. The Home Ministry appears to delay the information sought from it," said Ajay Dubey, who had filed the RTI.
By afternoon, Prasad had reacted to the news report. He claimed that the questions and replies discussed in the call, a copy of which the organisation has posted online, was recorded by the reporter without his permission.
Prasad also claimed that this did not figure in his examination of Ashok Kumar, the witness he is alleged to have tutored.
Edited by Shreyas Sharma
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