INSIDE STORY: Rajiv Gandhi assassination case and the Special Investigation Team

| by L.Annadoure

( January 31, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) Certain factual aspects have been constrained to be repeated for appreciation and excerpts from the passage from the books authored by the Head of the Special Investigation Team and the Chief Investigation officer are necessarily to be quoted verbatim and therefore the author craves the indulgence of the readers to bear with him.

The death row convicts in Rajiv Gandhi Assassination case are eagerly awaiting the impending result that would ensue in the Writ petition which is about to be heard before The Honourable High Court of Judicature at Madras at the end of this month and they are very much hopeful and expectant that their life would be saved and in reality, the 13 long years of incarceration in itself would tantamount to execution. A chunk of prime of their life has been truncated and made a waste and their plea is they are innocent of crime foisted against them.

One of the death row convicts Murugan wrote letters in serial and they have been published in Junior Vikaden Magazine and in one such a letter dt.2.11.2011 he has tried to raise a volley questions and doubts about various aspects of the case and he is sure about injustice having been done to him and one among the doubts or questions is the dubious nature and authenticity of the still photographs which have been relied upon by the Prosecution to fix the identity of the conspirators and actual executioners and the alleged confessional statement were made to be the basis for conviction and the Honourable Supreme Court ruled that confessional statement would implicate and drive home the offence against the co accused too and the translation of the letter dt.2.11.2011 has appeared in Srilankaguardian web site. It is worth while to read the letter which would purport to reveal as to how he was tortured and ultimately made to sign the statement which was already prepared by the investigating officers. (5th Oct 2011 issue, Junior Vikaden ) 

In the letter dt.2.11.2011, the first question which he raises is as to why the Special investigating team has failed to enquire into the identity of the person who was apparently pushing Thanu forward from behind with his or her palm of hand over her back as could be seen from the last photographs among the photographs said to have been taken by Haribabu ?

The second question posed by the death convict Murugan is that why the scene of offence was not preserved and protected from being disturbed and the escape of real culprits was facilitated as the roll of colour film had been laid hold by a press reporter which was said to have been retrieved later by the Head of the Special Investigation Team Mr.D.R.Karthikeyan?

The third question is the mystery behind the absence of ‘Pottu’( thilak) mark on the forehead of Thanu in the photograph said to have been taken by Haribabu at the scene of blast and another photograph showing a woman said to be Thanu lying dead with Pottu’ mark on her forehead?

Fourth question is why the hand bag found hung on the shoulder of Thanu was not at all recovered from the scene of crime nor any enquiry was made after the missing hand bag ?

Subsequent to the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi the Special Investigation Team had verified on 23.5.1991 from the records available at the General Hospital, Kanceepuram and they had ascertained that some one claiming to be the father of the alleged photographer Haribabu was said to have received the body and the body was cremated there at Kancheepuram in all haste. Therefore there arise suspicion and doubt in respect of the abrupt disappearance of the alleged corpse of Haribabu. It is to be remembered that it was only The Hindu News paper which for the first time had published the photograph of the alleged Haribabu.

There is no doubt and there cannot be one that whoever had conspired and assassinated Rajiv Gandhi should deserve the punishment and the perpetrators should not be shown any mercy but it sometimes so happens the death row convicts making persistent claim of their being innocent of the crime imputed and foisted on them and on such occasions there needs to be strict adherence to caution and circumspection in giving ear to their plea and there may not be mechanical disposal of the mercy petition too. In the humble opinion of this author the mercy pleas of Murugan, Santhan and Perrarivalan needs to be reconsidered when they have been languishing behind bar all these years and when they make a persistent claim of being innocent.

The Honourable judge of the Special Court had extolled the greatness of the Head of the Special Investigation Team Mr.D.R.Karthikeyan by heaping encomium on him that ‘he had been the guiding light and in charge of the investigation, his devotion to duty, hard work, ability and honesty’.

The Special Court has spoken high of the other members of the team by eulogizing that the team had completed the investigation in a very scientific and well planned way and due to their unbiased and accurate investigation the people who committed this hideous crime had been punished.

The Special court had spoken in praise of the ability and hard work of the Chief investigation officer and other investigating officers of CBI.SIT and all other officers and workers.

The Honourable Supreme court had praised the Special Investigation Team by saying the complete investigation was done in a very careful manner, putting together different pieces to make a clear picture of the conspiracy and the roles of the all conspirators were brought to light.

The caliber and the capabilities on the part of the CBI cannot be under estimated but it cannot said that the members constituting the Special Investigation Team would not have approached the case without bias and prejudice especially in this case. Here , the Special Investigation Team seemed to have force fit wrong pieces and it had striven hard to show that the accused persons in the case had conspired together in murdering Rajiv Gandhi which plan was master minded by one Sivarasan.

One may tend to think about the significance of photographs which the death convict Murugan has spoken of. If one photograph would show Pottu ( thilak mark ) on the forehead of Thanu and other photograph would not show Pottu (thilak mark) on the forehead of Thanu then any prudent man will naturally come to doubt the authenticity and veracity of the contents of said photographs. The Chief Investigating officer Mr.K.Ragothaman would admit in his book of the presence of pottu ( thilak mark) on the forehead of Thanu.

Unfortunately, the snaps shot by one Haribabu was said to be dead and his body was cremated in a suspicious and hurried way at Kancheepuram .

The then Union Minister of State for Home Subodh Kant had informed that a special investigation team comprising of experts from the Intelligence Bureau, National Security Guards and Research wing ( RAW) had been sent to Madras and the team had taken up its work and the Minister would continue to inform that the forensic experts from these organizations had already begun investigation to establish the modus operandi and the type of explosives that had been used in the blast that killed Rajiv Gandhi. It is being said that the team comprised 70 police officers besides Mr.D.R.Karthikeyan the Head of Special Investigation Team.

The Police Station at Sripeumbadur had registered a criminal case under crime No.329/91 against unknown person and under sec 302 , 307, 320 of Indian Penal Code and Sec 3 of the Arms Act on the next day of the blast that was on 22.5.1991 and the local police had been investigating the case.

The CB- CID had taken been up investigating of the case and in the course of such investigation Dr.P.Chandrasekaran,the Director, Tamil Nadu Forensic Science Laboratory and his ream had visited the scene of crime and gathered first pieces of material evidence which gave clue to the ingenious explosive device.

“The Scientists of the Central Forensic Science laboratory, New Delhi and NSG’s explosive expert joined the stream of scientists of Tamil Nadu Forensic Science laboratory in sweeping the blast site for material clues on 23rd May” and these are the exact words of D.R Karthikeyan and his colleague Radhavinodh Raju who had jointly authored a book under the caption ‘Rajiv Gandhi Assassination.’ ( page 23)

A Television Journalist Mr.Ramasundram would state that Government had deputed the Director of the Forensic laboratory in Chennai, Prof P. Chandrasekaran, to take up investigation and who had already left for the spot that same night and collected evidence’.

It would be appropriate if the exact words spoken by the aforesaid Television Journalist is quoted below for appreciation and the following are what he had stated,

“ I called him the next morning and he told me that he had just returned from the site and will go to the office shortly. I went along and told him that Television net work were pressuring me to get the scoop on the assassination….. I placed the camera on the tripod, fixed a lapel mike on his coat and told him to narrate the story to the camera. As he was an expert in Forensic sciences, his words will certainly carry weight. I started filming. The professor then took out the LOTTO shoe that Rajiv Gandhi was wearing, I took shots of the shoe from different angles. Then he showed the kameez that Danu (human bomb) was wearing, next was the battery box with the fatal switch. He also narrated how the battery was switched on and the bomb blast mutilated Rajiv Gandhi's face. I recorded the whole narration which was the only clue to the bomb blast. Immediately I rushed the film to the network, I felt relieved that the deed was done.”

It has to be taken note that the Professor had made reference only to “ the battery box and the fatal switch”. The prosecutors’ case was that a 9 volt Golden Power battery was used in detonating RDX.

The learned senior Advocate Mr. S.Duraisamy who was conducting the case of the accused Nalini had raised the question of the identity of the person who had procured denim belt and the RDX and the place where RDX was purchased.

The Head of Special Investigation Team Mr.D.R.Karthikeyan wrote a book Rajiv Gandhi Assassination, Triumph of Truth, in the year 2004 and similarly K.Ragothaman, the Chief Investigating Officer had written a book, ‘Rajiv Gandhi Assassination –Time to unravel the Mystery’ in Nov, 2009. If any matter which contained in the aforesaid books were to be contrary to ones stated before the Special court or given in evidence before the Special Court then it would amount to having spoken false before court.

The Chief Investigating officer Mr.K.Raogthaman had mentioned at page No.19 of his book Rajiv Gandhi Assassination –Time to unravel the Mystery, that Dr.P.Chandrasekaran, Forensic Science Expert had been to the scene of crime and he had collected several pieces of evidence. It became known to him that the explosive material used was RDX. Iron pellets were removed the corpses and one 9 volt battery was recovered. The Forensic expert did not speak anything about recovering a 9 volt battery and in fact all he had mentioned was only recovery of a battery box.

Although the term ‘battery’ and ‘cell’ are often interchangeably used yet each connote rather a different meaning. When some electric cells placed in series or in parallel forms a battery and ‘cell’ is a single electric unit and what the professor salvaged from the ground was only a battery box so to house some electric cells and in fact there was no mention of having collected 9 volt battery. what is noteworthy at this juncture is the professor did not mention anything about the roll of colour film having been collected at the scene of crime. Mr.D.R.Karthikeyan would speak of recovery of some parts of 9 volt Golden power battery. Once again we have to rebut the allegation by saying that whatever the kind battery that was used it should have been reduced to smithereens owing to the tremendous impact and that too beyond identification and the proposition that parts of 9 volt battery were recovered was an impossibility. What would be inside a 9 volt battery –a close packing of mercury or cadmium compounds bound with zinc sheet or tin sheet.

The Television Journalist had continued to state that many networks and newspapers wanted to hear Professor's version and that later many foreign TV stations had used his material; even BBC had to depend on his material and many other newspapers abroad like LA Times, Toronto Star had extensively quoted the footage but he felt sad that the Forensic expert who wrote a book, ‘The Untold Story of the Rajiv Gandhi Assassination’ had failed to mention his covering of the event in that book.( ramasundaram blog)

The Central Bureau of Investigation had registered a fresh Regular case No.9/91 Special crime branch, Chennai and on May 24th at about 1.30.P.M the Special Investigation Team officially had taken up Rajiv Gandhi Assassination case for investigation from the Tamil Nadu police.

The Forensic expert Mr.Chandaraekaran did not speak anything about the recovery of the Chinon camera from the scene of crime when he narrated to the media about the recovery of pieces of evidence on the very night of bomb blast as has been stated earlier.

The Head of the Special Investigation Team Mr.D.R.Karthikeyan who in his book captioned Rajiv Gandhi Assassination had stated that ‘among the materials taken over by them from the state Crime Branch was the Chinon camera that had been picked up from the scene of crime under I.G. Ragavan’s direction. The Camera had been taken by the Police photographer to a studio nearby to ascertain whether it contained clue. The Film being coloured one, it could not be developed at the local studio and the exposed portion was cut and packed and passed on to the police photographer. Due to the disturbance of law and order situation following the assassination it was not until the after noon of May 23rd that this portion of film, containing vital evidence, was taken to TNFSL and developed late in the evening. The First prints made from the exposed film were black and white and kept sealed at the lab’.

Any one with a rudimentary knowledge of photography may not accept the version of the story propounded by the Director Mr.D.R.Karthikeyan because an undeveloped colour film when once taken out of the film canister would not be of any use and even if cut film were to be developed the strip of film would show only a blank and further no one could come in agreement with to accept the statement like cutting of the exposed film from the roll of film in a local studio, packing of it and sending it for developing and therefore the alleged recovery of the film canister with roll of film in it, cutting of the exposed films from the film canister, then packing of the cut piece of film only smack of suspicion and doubt and there appears to be no truth in the statements. Further, before the exposed films in the film canister could be developed it is not known how one could see whether the pictures are exposed on to the film or not. Such averments appear like childish prattle.

Now reverting to the statements of Mr.D.R.Karthikeyan, the strip of film which was cut was developed at the Tamil Nadu Forensic Laboratory in the late evening of 23rd May and white and black prints were taken of the developed negatives and in reality such statement seem to be something unusual and farfetched.

To be continued tomorrow …