Following public criticism, the Centre has filed a fresh affidavit in the Gujarat High Court, saying it was not opposed to an independent probe into the alleged fake encounter of Mumbai college student Ishrat Jahan and three others in 2004.
The move comes nearly eight weeks after the Union Home Ministry filed an affidavit on August 6, opposing a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the encounter.
But the United Progressive Alliance government was forced to distance itself from the affidavit, when the Gujarat government circulated copies of the document, after a magisterial probe declared the encounter fake on September 7.
Two days later, the Gujarat High Court stayed any action on the probe report.
Jahan and three others were gunned down by Gujarat police on June 15, 2004 on the outskirts of Ahmedabad for alleged links with terror outfit Lashkar-e-Tayyeba.
Home Minister P Chidambaram said since the first affidavit was misinterpreted, the government filed a second affidavit on Tuesday.
“Intelligence inputs are regularly shared with states, but these cannot be used as conclusive evidence to justify any encounter — true or fake,” Chidambaram said.
The Gujarat government responded with anger, saying: “the Centre was nervous in the matter”. The Bharatiya Janata Party also slammed the decision.
The Home Ministry stated in the second affidavit that it was not opposed to any probe into the incident. “If ... it is found that an independent inquiry has to be carried out, the Centre will have no objection and would abide by the court decision,” the affidavit stated.
This was in stark contrast to the first, which said the “Centre did not consider the case fit for investigation by the CBI”.
What further embarrassed the government was the reference in the first affidavit that sought the dismissal of a petition filed by Ishrat’s mother, demanding a probe.
The Gujarat High Court, which asked the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the state police to probe the encounter, will hear the matter on December 11, after the team submits its report.
The first affidavit also started a turf war between the Home and Law ministries, with the latter going public with its displeasure for not having been consulted.
(inputs from Aloke Tikku)