The Narendra Modi government came in for sharp criticism in the Ishrat Jahan case with the Gujarat high court Friday accusing state authorities of “obstructing the probe” and saying that “even if Ishrat and the others were terrorists, nobody had the licence to liquidate them”.
Ishrat's relatives collect her body from a hospital in Ahmedabad on June 18, 2004. File photo
The CBI wasn’t spared too. Rapped “for not filing the charge sheet on time, leading to some accused getting default bail”, the division bench said the agency was “spending too much time checking the veracity of the IB input” and not enough “investigating the genuineness of the encounter”.
Ishrat, a 19-year-old college girl from Mumbai, was killed along with three men by Ahmedabad Police in a 2004 encounter.
The police claimed, citing an Intelligence Bureau tip-off, that they were Lashkar terrorists who had entered the state to kill Modi.
"What is the role of the state when four persons in police custody are killed? Does the state want to defend those who liquidated them?" one of the judges asked government counsel Tushar Mehta during a hearing on the CBI's status report.
"We are unable to understand why the state is opposed to an investigation ordered by this court, why there is no cooperation from state authorities to the CBI."
Reprimanding the CBI, the bench said it had derailed the investigation and the court would now "have to streamline it". It also asked the agency if it had "a soft approach towards some accused and a strict approach towards others". It directed the CBI to submit a final report by July second week and file the charge sheet expeditiously.
Speaking about the IB tip-off, agency sources insisted the role of IB special director Rajinder Kumar wasn't just limited to generating the apparently false alert on the possibility of an attack on Modi but went much deep.
Mehta's request to the court that he be allowed to put on record a CD (of alleged conservations between the four and their Pakistani handlers) was turned down. "Hand it over to the CBI," the court told him.