Ahmedabad: In a huge setback to the Narendra Modi government, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) told the Gujarat High Court on Monday that the Ishrat Jahan encounter was not genuine. After the SIT filed its report, the High Court ordered that a complaint under Indian Penal Code Section 302 (murder) has to be filed against those involved in the fake encounter.
The SIT, headed by IPS officer RR Verma and including two other seniors police officers Mohan Jha and Satish Verma, said that Ishrat along with Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were killed prior to the date of encounter on June 15, 2004. All three SIT officers came to an unanimous conclusion that the encounter was fake.
However, the court decided against divulging precise details of the SIT report as it would prejudice investigations in the case.
The arguments in the case will continue over the issue of who will file an FIR and investigate the case.
Those accused in the case include then Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch) PP Pande, suspended Deputy Inspector General DG Vanzara, then Assistant Commissioner of Police GL Singhal and Assistant Commissioner of Police NK Amin - all IPS officers. There were total of 21 policemen, including the IPS officers, involved in the fake encounter.
Vanzara and Amin are also accused in the Soharabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case and murder of Sheikh's wife Kausar Bi and are presently behind bars.
A division bench of justices Jayant Patel and Abhilasha Kumari on October 7, had directed the SIT to submit the final report that would conclude if the encounter of the four persons, claimed by Gujarat Police to be terrorists, was genuine or fake.
Ishrat, a 19-year-old college girl, along with Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were killed by Ahmedabad Crime Branch on June 15, 2004.
The Crime Branch had then claimed the four were members of terror group Lashkar-e-Toiba and were on a mission to kill Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Reacting to the verdict, Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai's father Gopinath Pillai said, "We knew it since beginning that it was a fake encounter. They were kept in custody for four days and tortured. There were torture and injury marks on the body of Javed Sheikh."
NCP legislator Jitendra Awhad demanded Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's arrest. "This is justice given. We will directly ask for the resignation of Narendra Modi," said Awhad.
The probe in the case was supervised directly by the High Court which constituted the SIT in 2010 to investigate the genuineness of the encounter after petitions were filed by Ishrat's mother Shamima Kausar and Gopinath Pillai raising questions about the police version of the incident.
Ishrat case timeline:
June 15, 2004: Gujarat Police claimed that they had killed Ishrat Jahan and three others killed on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. The police claimed the four were members of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba on a mission to kill Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
September 2009: Ahmedabad metropolitan magistrate SP Tamang calls the encounter fake.
August 2010: Gujarat HC asks Supreme Court-appointed SIT headed by former CBI director RK Raghavan (investigating the Gujarat riots) to take up the case.
September 2010: The HC constitutes a new SIT after Raghavan-headed SIT expressed its inability to undertake the probe.
November 2010: The Supreme Court rejects the Gujarat government's plea challenging the HC order to form the new SIT.
December 2010: Three-member SIT begins investigation in the case and starts recording statements of the witnesses, police officials involved.
January 28, 2011: SIT member Satish Varma files affidavit stating that the encounter was a fake one. He also accuses other two members of not allowing the probe to be done in an unbiased manner.
April 8, 2011: Gujarat HC division bench warns the state authorities that the court will hand over the probe to central agencies like CBI or NIA if the state does not allow SIT to probe without hindrance.