No one from the Union cabinet or even United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi were kept in the loop about Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab's scheduled hanging on Wednesday morning. Only president Pranab Mukherjee and the home ministry knew of the decision, according to Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde.
Shinde told NDTV that the UPA chairperson "was not part of the decision" and his cabinet colleagues learnt of the event through television.
Terming the decision to hang the 26/11 terrorist "a routine" job for him, Shinde said "only the home ministry and the president of India knew of it... it has nothing to do with the cabinet".
Asked if his cabinet colleagues, including prime minister Manmohan Singh, were aware that the Pakistani terrorist would be hanged at 7:30am in Pune's Yerawada jail, Shinde said: "No, no... it appeared through television".
"It is my routine work, my nature is to keep secrecy in such things, I am trained in police," said the former Maharashtra chief minister who took over from P Chidambaram in August.
Relating the events leading to the hanging, Shinde said he signed the file on Kasab and sent it to the president with the note that mercy should not be considered. The president signed the file on November 5 and returned it the same day.
However, Shinde was away in Rome attending an Interpol meeting and returned after two days. When he returned he "saw the top secret file which said that the president had refused the request for mercy petition".
He also denied that the entire hush-hush operation was known as "Operation X". "I don't call it Operation X," he said.
He told the news channel that the high level of secrecy was required so that petitions in courts and by human rights activists could be "avoided".
To a question on the impact of the hanging in Pakistan, Shinde said he was in touch with the government of Pakistan and his counterpart in Islamabad.
"He has promised he will cooperate... Pakistan is also suffering from terrorism and infiltration... and it is time that both of us consult each other," Shinde said.
Asked if his ministry had taken a decision on Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, Shinde said he would deal with the file when it came to him.