Guj HC lets off MoS Home in contempt case

Gujarat HC let off Minister of State for Home Praful Patel, facing contempt charges in connection with Ishrat Jahan encounter case, with a word of caution.

Ahmedabad: Gujarat High Court on Friday let
off Minister of State for Home Praful Patel, facing contempt
charges in connection with Ishrat Jahan encounter case, with a
word of caution, after he tendered unconditional apology.

A division bench of Justice Jayant Patel and Justice
Abhilasha Kumari, which had called for initiating contempt of
court proceedings, also sought an undertaking from the
minister within two weeks, that there would not be any delay
in complying with its orders in the future.

In April last year the court had issued a notice to
the Home Department, after it failed to comply with its order
passed two months prior to it, for transferring three police
officers, who are suspects in the fake encounter case of 2004.

Additional Chief Secretary, Home, Balwant Singh had
then filed an affidavit, seeking apology on behalf of the
state government.

Dissatisfied with Singh`s reply, the court called for
records of the file movement, pursuant to its orders for
transferring three police officers. It was found that the file
was lying with the MoS (Home) for nearly two months.

The court sought an explanation from the minister,
following which, he had filed a reply, stating that the delay
in transferring the officers was because he was occupied with
state Assembly`s budget session.

On February 1 this year, the minister filed another
affidavit, tendering unconditional apology with assurance that
there would not be any delay in compliance with court`s order
in the future.

Coming down heavily on the minister, the court asked
the Advocate General Kamal Trivedi, who appeared on behalf of
the state government, if the entire administration stops
functioning during the assembly session.

"It is unbelievable that the minister was not aware of
the High Court`s the files not move during the
assembly session?," the court asked.

It further said that political agenda should not play
a role in implementing the HC order.

Court observed that there was definitely a breach, be
it intentional or unintentional. "It is not that the state
played role without partiality," it further observed.

The delay in transfer of three officers -- ADGP PP
Pande, SP GL Singhal and ACP Tarun Barot -- had caused damage
to the probe that was being carried out by the HC appointed
Special Investigation Team (SIT), the court said, adding that
it had, in its judgement ordering CBI probe into the Ishrat
fake encounter case, had mentioned about attempts being made
to derail the probe.

On December 1 last year, the HC had directed the CBI
to take over further probe in the case after the SIT,
constituted by it, had concluded that encounter of Ishrat
Jahan and three others --Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Gopinath
Pillai, Amjad Ali Rana and Jeeshan Johar-- on the outskirts of
the city on June 15, 2004, was fake and was staged by Gujarat

After the encounter in June 2004, Ahmedabad city crime
branch had claimed the four were LeT members and were on a
mission to kill Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

A judicial inquiry by metropolitan magistrate SP
Tamang in September 2009 in the case had also claimed that the
encounter was fake and executed in cold blood by police
officials for their benefit.