Ishrat case: Chief of SIT wants to be relieved

Within days of taking charge as chairman of the SIT probing the Ishrat Jahan encounter killing case, Satyapal Singh on Friday requested the Gujarat High Court that he be relieved from duty.

Ahmedabad: Within days of taking charge as
chairman of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the
Ishrat Jahan encounter killing case, Satyapal Singh on Friday
requested the Gujarat High Court that he be relieved from duty
citing differences of opinion between two other SIT members.

Singh said there was difference of opinion between the
other two members of the SIT -- Mohan Jha and Satish Verma --
and said it would be difficult to rely on them for
Singh, who had taken charge as chairman of SIT on June
18, gave a letter to the bench of Justice Jayant Patel and
Justice Abhilasha Kumari saying he also faced language problem
because of his inability to clearly comprehend Gujarati.

"It is not possible for me to clearly understand and
comprehend Gujarati language in which most of the statements
of witnesses and police officers are recorded", Singh added.

Reacting to Singh`s letter, Justice Patel said language
barrier should hardly be any reason for opting out of the

Citing the case of the Supreme Court-appointed SIT to
look into some cases of the 2002 Godhra riots case, Justice
Patel said though its chief R K Raghvan and member A K
Malhotra did not know Gujarati, they haven`t raised such a

He also gave the example of CBI joint director P
Kandaswamy heading the probe into Soharabudin Sheikh fake
encounter killing case.

Justice Patel further said this creates an impression
that the probe in the case is progressing in a "soft-peddling
manner" (tardy pace).

The court, however, remarked, that if the officer has no
zeal to work, then he needs to be relieved.

The High Court criticized Singh for leaking the content
of his application to the media.

It also asked the Union Government to file a reply on
Singh`s letter if they would like to relieve him or not within
a week.

The court further said that if the Centre decides to
relieve Singh, it should suggest names of other officers who
could take up the chairmanship of the SIT.

Further hearing in the matter has been kept on July 16.

During the hearing, the SIT submitted the progress report
in the encounter case along with the request that it needs
more time as there has been less progress in investigation in
absence of the chairman.
The High Court had appointed Singh as head of the special
investigation team (SIT) on May 12 after the then chairman
Karnal Singh expressed a desire to be excused from the probe
following his posting in Mizoram.

Mumbai`s college student Ishrat, along with three others
-- Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjad Ali Rana and
Zeeshan Johar -? was killed in a police encounter on June 15,

After the encounter, the city crime branch had claimed
that the deceased were Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists who came to
the state to kill Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

The probe into the case has been marred by obstacles ever
since the Gujarat High court ordered formation of SIT last
year to investigate the genuineness of the encounter based on
the petition of Ishrat`s mother Shamima Kausar and Gopinath
Pillai, father of Javed Sheikh.

The court also asked the assistant solicitor general
Pankaj Champaneri appearing on behalf of the Union government
to make sure that what happened in case of Singh is not

The court said that Singh was appointed after
consulting the Central government.

"Make sure that it is not made into a mockery this
time," Justice Patel said, adding that there was no dearth of
senior IPS officers for the said job. Take the state
government into confidence if needed, he added.

"Take care that the purpose of investigation is not
frustrated and whomsoever is guilty is booked," Justice Patel

He also directed the SIT to continue with its
investigation in the meantime.


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