A Gujarat high court judge on Monday recused himself from hearing the petition filed by aditional DGP PP Pandey seeking the quashing of an FIR filed against him by CBI in the 2004 Ishrat Jahan encounter killing case.
Justice SR Brahmabhatt on Monday decided not to hear the petition filed by Pandey on Friday last on the grounds that in the past, as a lawyer, he had represented Gujarat IPS officer DG Vanzara, who is also an accused in the case.
Vanzara, one of the main accused in the 2006 encounter killing of Sohrabuddin Shaikh, was arrested by CBI in Ishrat case on June 4 and has been lodged in Sabarmati central jail here since then.
The FIR, filed by CBI in Ishrat case, alleges that Pandey provided the "so-called crucial intelligence inputs" to the fellow officers which said that Ishrat, a college student, and three others were LeT operatives and were on a mission to assassinate Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.
Pandey, as the joint commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad, was heading the crime branch when Ishrat, Javed Shaikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjadali Akbarali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were killed in the encounter with the Gujarat police on the outskirts of city on June 15, 2004.
Pruthvi Pal Pandey, a 1982-batch IPS officer, who was declared an absconder by the CBI court here on June 21, has claimed in his petition, filed through advocate Manav Mehta, that Rana, Shaikh and Johar were "terrorists" and killed in a "genuine encounter" and hence he should not be made an accused.
On Monday, when Pandey's petition was taken up for the hearing, advocate Mukul Sinha, who is representing Gopinath Pillai, father of Javed Shaikh alias Pranesh Pillai, raised the objection that as another bench was already hearing the main case of Ishrat Jahan encounter killing, Pandey's petition should also be heard by it.
"As another division bench, which is seized of the main case of encounter killing, it would be appropriate that same bench hear this petition as well," Sinha argued.
He also objected the relief sought by Pandey arguing that as special CBI court has already declared him an absconder and High Court has already directed CBI to file charge sheet by July 4, his petition should not be entertained and Pandey should be ordered to surrender before the court.
However, justice SR Brahmabhatt held that, "As I have decided not to hear this petition it will be upto the high court registry to place this matter before another judge for the hearing."
Earlier this month, Pandey had moved the Supreme Court, seeking the same relief from the apex court but it had asked him to seek relief from Gujarat high court.