Nineteen-year-old Ishrat Jahan's death in Gujarat nine years ago was a "cold-blooded murder" engineered by the Ahmedabad crime branch and intelligence bureau (IB) officials, the CBI said on Wednesday.
The agency said in its first chargesheet on the 2004 case that Ishrat and three others were abducted, kept under illegal confinement, sedated and killed by the cops in a "fake encounter".
The chargesheet says three IPS officers-PP Pande, DG Vanzara and GL Singhal-and five other policemen, who were part of the team that carried out the killings, have been booked for murder, abduction, illegal confinement, destruction of, and tampering with, evidence.
The 1,500-page document said a car carrying Ishrat and a male companion was intercepted on the Ahmedabad-Mumbai highway and they were taken to a farm house for interrogation.
Three days later, they were sedated, taken to the outskirts of Ahmedabad and seated in an Indica car along with two men said by an IB alert at the time to be Lashkar-trained suicide bombers planning a hit job on Modi. Then the four were shot dead by the Ahmedabad cops, who also planted a rifle on them, the CBI said.
The chargesheet did not name Modi or his confidant Amit Shah, but was also silent on allegations by the IB and Gujarat police that Ishrat and the others had links to terrorist organisations. In fact, the chargesheet calls the encounter a "joint operation" by the Gujarat Police and the state Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau.
The disclosures bring back to centrestage Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi's record on minorities at a time when he is pitching to become the BJP's PM candidate for 2014 and would prefer the debate to be about governance and development. But some in the BJP see a sharper polarisation of the electorate delivering more Hindu votes than in 2009.
The agency said it was not mandated to declare whether the deceased were terrorists or not, as the Gujarat high court had directed it to focus on the genuineness of the encounter after observing no one had the right to eliminate these persons even if they had been terrorists.
Supplementary chargesheet would be filed against IB officers Rajinder Kumar, P Mittal, MK Sinha and Rajiv Wankhede once the investigation was over, the court was told. The agency has sought more time to probe who all were involved in the conspiracy to kill the four persons.
The CBI accused eight Gujarat police officials of a range of crimes from kidnapping to murder and said it needed another month to conclude investigations into four IB men including senior officer Rajinder Kumar.
Among those booked by the CBI are three IPS officials: DG Vanjara, who is already in jail for three other fake encounter cases, GL Singhal, who is out on default bail because the CBI had not filed a charge sheet within the stipulated 90 days, and PP Pande, who has been absconding for two months.
The chargesheet said that IB and police officials had met on June 12-13 to plot the encounter and were unanimous on killing the three men but there was disagreement on whether Ishrat should be eliminated.
The Congress was quick to make a link to Modi. "He will also be exposed some time… someday, you will come to know of Modi's real face," said Congress general secretary Madhusudan Mistry.
BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman focused on the CBI's silence on whether the men accompanying Ishrat were foreign nationals in touch with terror masterminds over satellite phones, and pointed out that the IB was reporting to a Congress-led central government when the encounter happened in 2004.
"The central cops were also thus involved in the so-called abduction," she said.
Ishrat's mother Shamima Kausar told a news conference in Mumbai that those who planned her daughter's murder had still not been named.
"We will be satisfied only when all those behind the incident are punished," she said.
Highlights from CBI chargesheet
* CBI told the court that the Ishrat Jahan encounter was fake.
* It also said there was evidence to prove that Ishrat and others were sedated before being killed.
* They were kept in illegal confinement before being killed.
* Enough evidence to prove they were illegaly detained and then killed.
* Weapons were planted on Ishrat and others.
* The CBI chargesheet does not name Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, Amit Shah.
* The chargesheet also does not mention whether Ishrat, others were terrorists.
* The chargesheet mentions murder, kidnapping and illegal confinement.
* Three IPS officers, five other police official named in the chargesheet.
* Accused in the fake encounter case are charged under various IPC Sections 302 (murder), 368 (illegal confinement), 120 (criminal conspiracy), 201 (destruction of evidence), 270, 280 and Section 25E of Arms Act.
* Special director of intelligence bureau Rajinder Kumar not named in chargesheet.
* CBI has asked for more time to investigate the conspiracy.
* CBI said the cops were deployed in Ahmedabad to manage operations.
A timeline on Ishrat Jahan encounter case