Ashok Rathore of Indore suspected the fidelity of Surekha, his wife of over 21 years. Puja, 19, was the eldest of their three children, the other two being boys. He was said to have engaged a doctor to conduct a narco analysis test on his wife to learn from her about the person or persons with whom she was having an affair. The test, it is said, came negative. Still, Ashok was not satisfied and shot his wife dead in the morning of July 18.
In the narco analysis test, the person’s imagination is neutralised by making him semi-conscious. , the term narco analysis is derived from the Greek word narkç meaning “anaesthesia” or “torpor” and is used to describe a diagnostic and psychotherapeutic technique that uses psychotropic drugs, particularly Barbiturates, which act as central nervous system (CNS) depressants. These produce effects from mild sedation to anaesthesia. Synthesized first in 1903, Barbiturates are among the oldest of modern drugs. Three of the most popular Barbiturates, which have been in use in narco analysis, are: Sodium Amytal, Pentothal Sodium and Seconbarbital.
What is significant is that a “neutralised imagination” is not always coherent and also not necessarily able to restructure the events in proper chronological order. This can be easily seen in persons with delirium, because of high fever or some other disease, as to how they jump from yesterday to some happening in 30 years ago and how jumbled their memory becomes.
Reporting the Indore event in The Telegraph (Calcutta), Rasheed Kidwai quotes Dr Saifullah Tipu, senior anaesthesiologist with the Bhopal Memorial Gas Hospital, as pointing out that “narco tests are not proper but exceptions can be made only to assist police investigation in national interest”.
Interestingly, the use of narco tests (by whatever methods) to test wife’s fidelity appeared to be in vogue long before the present-day narco tests gained popularity. A Hindi short story “Vishleshan” (Analysis), written by Chakradhar Sharma some time in the 50s, has its plot on such a test.
Dr Subedar’s colleague, according to the story, falls in love with Subedar’s wife. The wife divorces Dr Subedar and marries his colleague. The colleague, a doctor himself, starts suspecting the fidelity of his wife and spends now most of his time at work.
Once it so happens that the wife comes home late in the night and the colleague takes it as almost a confirmation of the wife’s “affair”. He administers to her an injection to make her semi-conscious and then starts interrogating her. In the semi-conscious state, the wife tells him that she went to see her lover at Neelam Hotel; the two had their dinner in the Hotel; then they went to see a film; after that she spent a couple of hours at her lover’s flat. She, however, stubbornly refuses to give the name of the lover.
Mad with jealousy, the colleague injects the wife with poison and kills her. The next day he discovers that the Neelam Hotel had been closed more than a year ago. Then he recollects how he and (then Dr Subedar’s) wife had met at Neelam Hotel some two years ago, had their dinner there, gone to see a film together; and after that the wife had spent a couple of hours in his flat.
BJP MP R K Singh, who was Union Home Secretary just before he joined BJP on his retirement, has repeatedly stated that the BJP has sold tickets and also fielded criminals in the Bihar Assembly elections slated for October-November. Allegations of links with criminals and gangsters have been made by all parties against their rivals but no party has taken any initiative to end this menace. Madhya Pradesh, though essentially a two-party State, provides an example of politicians’ reluctance to end the politician-criminal nexus.
A Commission of Inquiry was constituted in August 1995 by then Congress government of Digvijaya Singh precisely to inquire into the nexus among the politicians, bureaucrats and criminals in the State. Justice G G Sohoni, retired Chief Justice of Patna High Court, was appointed its chairman. The terms of reference included, among other matters, the processes by which illegally acquired wealth is laundered; the efficacy of law enforcement agencies in curbing such activities; the activities of subversive elements; and the role of politicians and Government officials in patronising criminal elements.
After two years, the Commission submitted its report without any findings, being conscious of the fact that it has not been able to serve the purpose for which it was appointed. The reasons given by the Commission are summarised below:
No person, in response to the notice issued in that behalf, disclosed such material to the Commission as would have been relevant to ascertaining the nexus among the politicians, bureaucrats and criminals.
As an investigative team was not provided by the government, no investigation could be carried out to ascertain the veracity of rumours circulating in the public pertaining to persons holding important public offices.
Similarly, no thorough investigation could be carried out to probe matters which were relevant to the subject matter of inquiry and had come to the notice of the DIG, Police, deputed to the Commission. Hence no relevant evidence could be adduced before the Commission to find facts relevant to the matters referred to the Commission for inquiry.
Justice Sohoni lamented that the report might appear to be a “faceless drab document” blurring the issues referred to the Commission for inquiry and that the report might not, therefore, come up to the expectations of the public “which has anxiously waited for startling disclosures from the Commission regarding the names of politicians and Government officials patronising and protecting criminal elements in the society”.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has some of the best investigators and the agency has done really commendable job in the investigation of crimes. However, when it is assigned a politically sensitive case, its officers from top to bottom compromise their integrity and honesty. At least in Madhya Pradesh the CBI has not handled even a single sensitive case with honesty and efficiency.
The most scandalous and shameful performance of the CBI in Madhya Pradesh was in what had come to be known as the Malik Makbooja case. The agency was not even required to do much investigation but only to collate the evidence and prosecute the culprits. That, though, was the crux of the problem. The culprits included senior IAS officers and political leaders.
The case also saw an IAS officer, having already reached the pinnacle of his career as the chief secretary of the State, stoop low to please the chief minister so that his undeserving wife could get a sinecure in the State Human Rights Commission. Incidentally, the wife drew the house rent allowance from the Human Rights Commission by submitting the house rent receipts signed by none other than her husband with whom she lived in their own house.
Malik Makbooja, narrated in a simple language, was like this: the law prohibits the sale of a tribal’s land to a non-tribal. What the rogues did to circumvent this provision in law in Bastar was to persuade a tribal to sell his land to another chosen tribal. It started like this. “A” was paid a meagre amount of money and made to sell his land to “B”. Both were tribals and poor and illiterate. A certain politician or trader paid a few lakh of rupees to “B” and took, for all practical purposes, the possession of the land. There were 200-300-year-old precious teak trees on the land but the revenue officials had shown the land in the records as barren land, with only a few shrubs. The IAS officials, appointed there as Commissioner, Collector, Assistant Commissioner and in other capacities, as well as the lower level revenue officers, facilitated the illegal transaction. The politician or the trader behind the deal would then cut down the trees and make crores of rupees from the timber. The government officials also benefited from the transaction. This had gone on for decades.
S R Hiremath, president of National Committee for Protection of Natural Resources (NCPNR), who has done a commendable job in the field of environment conservation in Karnataka, got concerned with the plunder of Bastar in the early 1990’s. With the help of Ekata Parishad, which was active in the Chhattisgarh region of Madhya Pradesh, Hiremath approached the Supreme Court through an interlocutory application (No. 60 of 1997) in writ petition No. 202 of 1995, with a prayer to put a check on the wanton destruction of forests and exploitation of poor tribals by a nexus of bureaucrats, politicians and timber merchants in Bastar district which had larger area than that of Kerala State. (It has since been divided into seven districts).
The apex court directed the Madhya Pradesh Lokayukta to get the matter investigated. The Lokayukta constituted a committee comprising retired district and sessions judge R C Sharma (chairman), retired forest secretary to the MP Government Prakash Chandra, and retired Chief Conservator of Forests K.K.R.Naidu. The three-member committee did an excellent job and produced a 236-page report giving precise details of nearly 800 cases: how much the seller of the land was given, how much was paid to the chosen buyer of the land, how much the real person behind the racket made out of the sale of timber on the land and who were the IAS and other revenue department officers involved in the deal and what illegalities they committed.
The committee found no evidence of any organised gang or group of persons or Mafia involved in the illegal activities. It said that the sale and purchase of lands and felling of trees “are being done by different persons of different class and category, whosoever got opportunity, for their individual benefit. Some families have made it their regular business”. It pointed out that the nexus “between the persons, including persons in politics, and the merchants, with local bureaucrats at all levels is apparent. The role of officers is a major factor in promoting these activities which make the task of exploitation of forests standing on private land (Malik Makbooja land) easy, by granting permission to cut the trees, frequently and liberally”.
The Lokayukta submitted the report to the Supreme Court which asked the Madhya Pradesh government of Digvijaya Singh (Chhattisgarh was still part of it) to initiate action against those indicted in the report. The State’s chief secretary K.S.Sharma, however, submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court expressing the State government’s inability to proceed against the Malik Makbooja culprits. In January 1998, a division bench of the apex court comprising Chief Justice J.S.Verma, and Justices B.N. Kirpal and V.N. Khare directed the CBI to institute criminal cases against them and prosecute them. The CBI made a big show of registering a few FIRs and the case died down there. (K S Sharma’s wife Shakuntala Sharma was later appointed on the State Human Rights Commission).