New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday said a panel headed by its former judge Justice H S Bedi, looking into 22 alleged fake encounter killings in Gujarat from 2002 to 2006, can induct police officers from outside the state to ensure a fair probe.
A bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam considered the submissions of poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar that the police officers, who are part of the Justice Bedi monitoring panel, belong to Gujarat and a fair probe was not possible under the present circumstances.
"The Chairman (Justice Bedi) is permitted to take the assistance of persons and officers outside the state of Gujarat," the bench, also comprising justices Ranjana P Desai and Ranjan Gogoi, said.
At first, the bench was reluctant to make any clarification saying "is it necessary to monitor as to how the investigation is being carried out (by Justice Bedi panel). If Justice Bedi has any problem, he can write to us and it is his job to conduct the investigation."
"Let the monitoring committee do its job and deficiencies, if any, in the reports can be pointed out later," it said.
However, when advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for Akhtar and social activist Shabnam Hashmi, repeatedly submitted that Justice Bedi has misunderstood the January 25, 2012 order and a clarification will help in fair probe, the bench agreed with his request.
"It seemed Justice Bedi misunderstood the (SC) order," Bhushan said adding a fair investigation is not possible if serving police officers from Gujarat are part of the panel.
The apex court had on March 2, 2012 appointed its retired judge, Justice H S Bedi, as the chairman of the monitoring authority looking into the cases of alleged fake encounter killings during the four year period in Gujarat. The killings allegedly show a pattern that people from the minority community were targeted as terrorists.
Meanwhile, the court rejected the plea of Gujarat that henceforth, the petitioners should not be allowed access to future reports of the Justice Bedi panel.
"As and when, the Chairman (Justice Bedi) submits the report, its copy may be supplied to the petitioners," it said.
Earlier, the court had said five reports of the panel be supplied to the parties involved in the matter.
The bench had brushed aside the allegation of Gujarat government that it was "selectively" targeted on human rights issue and the same yardstick was not applied to dealing with cases of alleged encounter killings in other states.
"You bring human rights violations from other states. You will find we will respond with same alacrity," a bench, headed by Justice Aftab Alam (since retired), had said while appointing Justice Bedi as the chairman of the monitoring authority.
Later, the state government filed a petition in the apex court to bring into its ambit the encounter killings in all states and the plea is pending before another bench.
Since taking over the task, Justice Bedi filed six reports in sealed covers to the apex court which had wanted the supervision and monitoring of the investigation to be done by "someone whose integrity is completely beyond any question".
The bench, in its order, had noted his allegations that it was a fake encounter and that there was an attempt for its "cover up" by Gujarat government.
Khan, who was in police custody, was killed on the intervening night of October 21-22, 2002, when he allegedly snatched the revolver of a policeman who had accompanied him with a team to a spot where he had been accused of having murdered a constable.
An FIR was registered alleging that Khan was involved in a conspiracy hatched by Pakistan`s Inter Services Intelligence and terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed to assassinate Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and other leaders.
Akhtar, who jointly filed the petition along with social activist Shabnam Hashmi, had alleged it was the same team of Gujarat police which allegedly killed Sohrabuddin Sheikh in the fake encounter and later murdered his wife Kauser Bi.
Their petitions, filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan, had contended there were other media reports of alleged killings of innocent persons in fake encounters by the same team of Gujarat police and sought an investigation by a SIT into the "cover-up".