SC commission to probe Gujarat encounter killings

Last Updated: Wednesday, January 25, 2012 - 19:59

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the
monitoring authority headed by its former judge to look into
the killings in alleged fake encounters between 2002 to 2006
in Gujarat "so that the truth can come out".

Gujarat government had appointed former apex court judge
M B Shah in April last year to monitor the investigation into
the killings in the alleged fake encounters which purportedly
showed a pattern that people from the minority community were
targeted as terrorists.

"Having regard to the fact that a monitoring authority
has been put in place and a former judge of this court is its
chairman, we desire the chairman to look into all instances of
the alleged fake encounters mentioned in the two writ
petitions.

"We want the investigation to be thorough so that the
truth in each case is revealed," a bench comprising justices
Aftab Alam and C K Prasad said while asking the Chairman of
the monitoring authority to place before it the preliminary
report on the issue within three months.

The two PILs filed by veteran journalist B G Verghese and
poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar had sought a direction for a
probe by an independent agency or CBI so that the "truth may
come out".

The bench said it will be open for the chairman of the
monitoring authority to constitute an independent team either
with officer from Gujarat Special Task Force (STF) or from
outside "considering the sensitivity of the matter" as some
senior officers of the state police force have been accused of
killing people in fake encounters.

The court said it will also be open for the chairman of
the monitoring authority to call for earlier police and case
records or records from human rights bodies in respect of any
encounter death which has been mentioned in the writ
petitions.

However, the bench clarified that the monitoring
authority will not go into the cases which are being
investigated by other agencies on orders of the apex court.

It also said the chairman of the monitoring authority, if
so desires, could give hearing to petitioners in the case or
kin of the victims of encounter deaths and could also decide
on giving monetary compensation for victims` family.

The judges said the petitions on the issue were pending
for several years but no substantive order was passed till
date and subsequent developments like appointment of STF and
setting up of monitoring authority had taken place during the
pendency of the matter.

Gujarat government had on April 7 and September 18, 2010,
come out with the notifications for constituting the STF to
investigate the cases of encounter killings and appointment of
Justice (Retd) M B Shah as the chairman of the monitoring
authority respectively.

The bench, which perused the notifications, noted that
"it appears that the monitoring authority has sufficient,
adequate and complete power to guide the STF investigation on
encounter death".

The PIL, filed by Verghese, had sought an inquiry into 21
alleged fake encounter killings by the police in Gujarat
during the period.

Akhtar had sought a probe by a special investigation team
(SIT) into the alleged fake encounters in the state, claiming
innocent people, particularly from Muslim community, were
being targeted as terrorists.

Verghese had said the pattern of killings showed there
was a need for investigation and sought a direction to the
Centre and Gujarat government to order an inquiry into the
encounter killings and compensation to the next of the kin.

Akhtar, in his petition, had cited news reports and a
sting operation done by a news magazine into the killing of an
alleged criminal Sameer Khan in October 2002.

The bench in its order noted his allegation 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 allegedly murdered a
constable.

An FIR was registered alleging that Khan was involved in
a conspiracy hatched by Pakistan`s Inter Services Intelligence
(ISI) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) to assassinate Gujarat Chief
Minister Narender 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 investigation by an SIT into
the "cover-up".

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, January 25, 2012 - 13:30

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