Zee Media Bureau
Ahmedabad: The Gujarat High Court on Friday rapped the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for delay in filing its chargesheet in the Ishrat Jahan alleged fake encounter case, while telling the counsel of the Narendra Modi government that no one has the right to kill people in fake encounters even if they were terrorists.
A division bench of Justices Jayant Patel and Abhilasha Kumari asked the CBI to ascertain the genuineness of the encounter instead of focusing on IB inputs and trying to figure out whether those killed were terrorists or not.
Justice Patel, reportedly, told the government counsel, Additional Advocate (AAG) General Tushar Mehta: "What is the role of the state? To defend the officers who killed four people even if they were terrorists or hardcore criminals. Nobody has the licence to kill people in fake encounters even if they are terrorists."
"Why the state continues to oppose the CBI probe in the case? Why cooperation to the agency is not extended by the state authorities?" the court asked.
Justice Patel further asked the CBI to focus on whether the 2004 encounter was staged.
"Prime facie, we find that instead of investigating the genuineness of the encounter, the CBI has focused more on the genuineness of the inputs provided by the IB," a division bench of Justices Jayant Patel and Abhilasha Kumari observed.
"It seems that in past one month you were more interested in figuring out whether the killed persons were terrorists or not but the court is not concerned whether they were terrorists or normal human beings. In any case they should not have been liquidated," the court observed.
"You have been assigned responsibility to ascertain whether they were killed in a genuine encounter or a fake one and whether they were in prior custody of Gujarat police or not," the court said.
The court also came down heavily on the state government for trying to put the CD on record (of alleged conservations between those killed in the encounter and their Pakistani handlers) and told them to submit the evidence before CBI.
On behalf of Gujarat Government, Tushar Mehta, while requesting the court to take the CD on record, claimed that it was a `clinching` evidence showing the persons who were killed were terrorists and that the encounter was genuine.
"This CD, duly endorsed by the highest officer of IB, contains clinching evidence which shows that those who were killed were terrorists and they were killed in genuine encounter," Mehta claimed.
However, the bench flatly refused to take the request from the state government and observed that, "this is not the right stage and right court to produce any kind of evidence in this case. If you consider it as important piece of evidence submit it to CBI or you can later produce it before the trial court. We are not entertaining it."
The court asked the CBI to explain why it failed to file the chargesheet within 90 days of the arrest of accused, to which CBI responded that it is very large case of conspiracy and investigation has led us from one point to another which has caused the delay.
The delay in filing the chargesheet has resulted in five accused police officers, including IPS GL Singhal, securing bail.
The CBI told the court that it will file the chargesheet in the case by first week of July.
But that could not satisfy the court which said that they have doubts that the probe agency would file the chargesheet even by second week of July.
The CBI, on the instruction of the High Court, had taken over the probe of the alleged fake encounter in which 19-year-old Ishrat, Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were killed on the outskirts of the city on June 15, 2004 allegedly by a Crime Branch team led by DIG DG Vanzara.
Meanwhile, taking note of some media reports that CBI director has decided to discontinue the services of Gujarat IPS officer Satish Verma who is assisting it in the case investigation on court orders, the bench asked CBI to clarify whether they need further services of Verma or not.
On this, CBI lawyer Ejaz Khan made it clear that agency needs the services of Verma till the investigation concludes.
After getting instructions from the CBI, he re-submitted that, "at least till the filing of chargesheet we will need his full time services and then his services may be availed whenever its needed."
This was supported by counsels representing Ishrat`s mother Shamima Kausar and Javed`s father Gopinath Pillai.
They urged the court to continue Verma`s services on the grounds that investigation was at a crucial stage and Verma should be permitted to perform the responsibility he has been assigned to.
Next hearing of the case is scheduled on June 18.
During past one month, the CBI arrested suspended IPS officer DG Vanzara, (prime accused in Sohrabuddin fake encounter case) who is now lodged in Sabarmati jail under judicial custody, following his five days custodial interrogation by the central agency.
The CBI had also summoned and grilled Special Director of Intelligence Bureau Rajendra Kumar in the Ishrat case with regard to the inputs generated about four `terrorists` entering Gujarat to kill Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Since the last hearing in High Court, five Gujarat policemen, accused in this case, were granted bail as the central agency failed to file its charge sheet against them within 90 days of their arrest.
Suspended IPS officer GL Singhal, Tarun Barot, JG Parmar, Bharat Patel and Anaju Chaudhary got the benefit of bail because of delay on the part of CBI in filing the chargesheet in the case.
Apart from grilling Rajendra Kumar, the agency had also summoned and examined former DGP of the state KR Kaushik, who was Police Commissioner of the city when the 2004 encounter took place.
As per the FIR registered by Detection of Crime Branch (DCB) in 2004, on receiving intelligence inputs from Kaushik, which were passed on to then Joint Commissioner of Police (DCB), Ahmedabad PP Pandey, they had cordoned off the city and upon arrival of the four, had intercepted them at the outskirts of the city where the encounter took place.
The CBI had also examined Special Public Prosecutor at City civil and sessions court Sudhir Brahmabhatt, who was then a public prosecutor.
(With PTI inputs)