The mystery of Lt Col Purohit’s Movement Orders

The mysterious manner in which his movement (transfer) orders were modified without the due process, leading to his alleged illegal detention and handing over to the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) without following due procedure, is critical to Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit’s quest to prove his innocence in the Malegaon 2008 blasts case. At the heart of the matter lies the nature of intelligence he gathered – some pertaining to Mumbai don Dawood Ibrahim in the weeks running up to the unprecedented terror attack of November 2008 – which apparently alarmed and offended certain well established persons.

Interestingly, Sadhvi Pragya, incarcerated without bail in the same case, also alleged illegal detention by the authorities before her formal arrest. That something is amiss can be inferred from the manner in which Purohit’s simple queries have met with sustained stonewalling. Even when some information was finally given, it was too niggardly to throw light on the truth.

The current stalemate boils down to Purohit to asking the Army to state on record the procedure regarding Movement Orders (MO) of officers and probationary officers, the authority to amend such orders, and the relevant Army rules and procedures for the same. This got the Ministry of Defence in a bind.

As per the record, Purohit was studying Arabic at the AEC Training College & Centre, Pachmarhi, when on October 29, 2008, Lt Col GC Mohanta, Adjutant, issued him MO no. 01247/5/Arabic/A, whereby he was to report to DGMI/MI-20. Thereafter, Col RK Srivastava, then Director Military Intelligence-9, amended the orders, and in coordination with Mumbai ATS ordered Purohit to report to Mumbai, where he was allegedly illegally detained and then handed over to the ATS without due process.

Purohit invoked the Right to Information Act (RTI) to demand that the Army furnish the rules and regulations under which an officer’s movement order can be amended by an authority other than the one which issued the first MO.

On July 18, 2012, the public information officer at Integrated Headquarters of the Ministry of Defence, Sena Bhavan, Col AK Sharma, admitted that the Adjutant of AEC Training College & Centre (i.e. Mohanta) was authorised to issue movement orders for the officers and probationary officers proceeding on temporary duty and or permanent postings from the college, and that he was the signing authority for the MO. He evaded the issue of amendment in the movement orders on grounds that this was outside jurisdiction.

On his persisting, on July 31, 2012, the Integrated HQ admitted that Purohit’s “movement order was amended based on verbal instructions from higher headquarter” (which authority was never identified). The Army admitted: “Yes the copy of the movement order meant for DGMI/MI-20 was handed over to Col RK Srivastava, SM, as the officer was detailed by Military Intelligence Directorate to coordinate investigations with Anti Terrorism Squad, Mumbai”.

Further, the Army said, “Yes, Col RK Srivastava, SM, the then Director MI-9, was authorised to carry out amendments in the said copy of the movement order No. 01247/5/Arabic/A dated 29 Oct 2008 under the verbal instructions of Military Intelligence Directorate, Integrated HQ MoD (Army). The copy of the movement order meant for DGMI/MI-20 was handed over to the officer as he was detailed by MI Dte to coordinate investigations with ATS, Mumbai”.

It is significant that the Military Intelligence Directorate has admitted that barely four weeks before the November 2008 terrorist strike in Mumbai, by Pakistan-based terrorists, the Army Headquarters was cooperating with Mumbai ATS against its own officer who was gathering intelligence on Dawood Ibrahim and his alleged plans to visit India precisely around the time of the strike. It is likely, as stated by late B Raman, that Purohit was not authorised to gather such intelligence; but he was by all accounts an outstanding officer with an uncanny capacity to collect information.

Purohit objected to these “vague and generic” replies, pointing out that his queries were specific in nature. He particularly objected to the fact that the replies furnished were not signed by any officer or appointment of MI Dte of IHQ, MoD (Army). The GSO 1 RTI at IHQ had scribbled his initials on the reply, but even the signature was not typed out clearly.

The Military Intelligence Directorate, he pointed out, is an institution and as such cannot pass verbal instructions. There has to be a specific officer holding an Appointment in the MI Dte who must have passed the verbal instructions. Hence, Purohit demanded the name, rank and appointment of the officer who issued the verbal instructions, even if he is now retired.

Further, Purohit demanded the date and time when these instructions were passed on to Col RK Srivastava, then MI-9. He explained that since the officer who passed the oral instructions to the Mumbai-based Srivastava would have been based in Delhi, the verbal instructions could only have been passed telephonically, and hence there should be telephone logs regarding such call as the matter had serious legal implications. He demanded a copy of the telephone log book.

Pressed by the Central Information Commission, the appellate authority, Maj Gen Anil Mehta, on October 10, 2012, made a lengthy summation of all queries and appeals made by Purohit, declared that all information had been provided, and simply disposed of the case from his side!

Purohit’s lawyer, fighting on many fronts for him, has decided to move an appeal before the CIC on grounds that this position is not acceptable to them as none of the pertinent information sought has been provided., 19 July 2013

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