The sigh of relief by the political bosses in Gujarat — and maybe by the entire saffron family — on Wednesday, as the first CBI charge sheet in the 2004 Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case mentioned only police officials as accused, may turn out to be short-lived.
The second phase of the investigation into the conspiracy angle before the CBI files a supplementary charge sheet by the month-end, could very well centre around the roles allegedly played by Amit Shah, then junior home minister and CM Narendra Modi’s close confidant, and IB special director Rajinder Kumar.
Following the first charge sheet, Ishrat’s family demanded that the role of those “who ordered the killings of the four persons must be unearthed along with those who executed it”.
And it’s going to play out just as demanded. A senior CBI official, who was part of the investigation, said the agency had gathered some evidence on the conspiracy part, but a further probe was required to bring in more evidence and corroborative material that can stand the scrutiny of law.
“A probe into the conspiracy angle will certainly not be limited to the cops. Since the encounter has been dubbed as a ‘joint operation’ of Ahmedabad Police and the IB, it’s hard to believe that they worked independently without the prior knowledge of their political masters,” said a CBI official, who did not want to be identified.
The masters in this case could even mean Modi himself, who held — and still holds — the home portfolio, and his junior.
What’s more, the official pointed out that the real beneficiary of the encounter was, obviously, Modi, who used it to build his image as India’s foremost leader in the war on Islamic terror. After all, the terrorist would target only those he is scared of.
Mukul Sinha, a lawyer who has been fighting the fake encounter cases, alleged, “Not only in the Ishrat case, even in the Sadiq Jamal encounter case, there is a larger conspiracy involving Modi and Amit Shah. We have sought a probe into the political masters in the Sadiq Jamal case. The CBI has told the court that it is investigating the matter.”
But another investigator said the probe into the conspiracy would primarily focus on the role played by Shah — and not his boss — as he was allowed a free hand by Modi to run the ministry.
Shah is already facing the charge of getting Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife Kauser Bi and accomplice Tulsiram Prajapati murdered in two fake encounters. His image had taken such a beating that the case was transferred out of Gujarat to a special court in Mumbai.
A few witnesses whose testimonies the CBI has secured in the Ishrat case told the agency that the conspiracy did involve Amit Shah, whose most trusted official, DG Vanzara, was involved in both the Ishrat and Sohrabuddin fake encounter cases.
The CBI official said, “It is more than evident that the Modi government has made all efforts possible to see that the probe is thwarted. The agency has been able to carry out the probe because of the strict monitoring of the division bench, which often slammed the administration for hindering the CBI probe.”