Ahmedabad, Dec 1: In another setback to the Narendra Modi government, Gujarat High Court today handed over further probe into the fake encounter of Ishrat Jahan and three others in 2004 to CBI and directed the SIT to slap murder charges in a fresh FIR against the policemen involved.
Observing that the case should be considered as an “exceptional one which has national ramifications”, a division bench of justices Jayant Patel and Abhilasha Kumari asked the Special Investigation Team (SIT) Chief R R Verma to file the fresh FIR under section 302 IPC(murder) within two weeks and transfer the case to the central investigating agency.
“We find that it would be just and proper to assign the entire investigation to CBI after registration of a fresh/another FIR by the Chairman of the present SIT,” the court said.
“It would also be required for the CBI to constitute a team of investigation headed by an Officer not below the rank of DIG. The matter is already delayed and such investigation should be completed in a reasonable time,” it further said.
“The facts and circumstances of the present case as have now emerged, call for exercise of power treating the case in the exceptional category, for assignment of investigation to CBI to provide credibility and instill confidence in the investigation, since the incident has by now acquired national, if not international ramifications,” the court observed.
The SIT had last month concluded that the encounter in which college girl Ishrat, Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were killed on June 15, 2004 in Ahmedabad was staged by the police, and death of the four had taken place before the encounter.
The court also directed CBI to probe the claims made by the state police after the encounter that the four persons were LeT terrorists on a mission to kill Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
The court did not favour handing over the case to National Investigating Agency (NIA) or continue with SIT.
Indicating a trust deficit in Gujarat Police, the court observed, “Keeping in view the paramount consideration of instilling confidence in the investigation and for maintaining credibility of investigation with the aim to book the real offenders, it appears to us that it would not be a case to be assigned to the state agency.”
The order also pointed at the allegation made by former SIT chief Karnal Singh that forces from within the state were trying to hamper the probe in the case.
The court also observed that despite its direction, certain police officers, including IPS officer G L Singhal who played a major role in the encounter, was not transferred.
“The aforesaid aspect of major role played by the said officer has also transpired in the 8th report of SIT (which concluded that encounter was fake),” the court said.
The court observed the investigation report of state police officer Parixita Gurjar was found to be false as per the investigation made by the SIT.
It also ruled out assigning the investigations to SIT, citing difference of opinion among its members.
The court also did not give its mandate to NIA, citing the issues concerning its jurisdiction and competence, besides limited scope for cases that it can take up.
“If the investigation is assigned to NIA and the charge is only of offence under IPC, more particularly other than those covered by Clause 8 of (NIA) Schedule, the question of competence and jurisdiction of NIA may arise,” it said.
“Similarly such questions may also arise at the time of taking cognisance and for conducting trial by the concerned special court,” the court added.
The court also directed the state government to make SIT member Satish Verma available for CBI so that he could assist them with the investigation.
SIT chief R R Verma said his team has done its work with full responsibility and come out with the conclusion that has been pronounced by the court.
“The court has directed further investigation to be done by the CBI and that shall be honoured,” he said. Verma said, “The court has also directed the chairman of SIT to file an FIR with CBI and that shall be the next responsibility we are going to discharge.”
“We could not have asked for a better judgement,” Ishrat's mother Shamima Kausar's lawyer Vrinda Grover said. A judicial enquiry report by metropolitan magistrate S P Tamang submitted on September 7, 2009 in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case had also said the encounter was fake and executed in cold blood by police officials for their benefit.
After forming the SIT in August 2010, the probe in the encounter case was being directly supervised by the Gujarat High Court.