The Gujarat high court on Friday appointed JV Ramudu as the new chief of the Special Investigating Team (SIT) probing the 2004 Ishrat Jahan encounter case. Ramudu is 1981 batch IPS officer of Andhra Pradesh cadre.
The three member SIT is probing the controversial encounter of Mumbra girl Ishrat Jahan and three others, who were gunned down by Ahmedabad police in June 2004.
The court's order came following a request made by the recently-appointed SIT chairman Satyapal Singh to relieve him of the responsibility. Singh is Maharashtra cadre officer.
On Friday, when the case came up for hearing, division ben h of the high court, expressed serious apprehension over witnesses retracting in the case. Justices Jayant Patel and Abhilasha Kumari of the bench said that it is a very serious matter.
So far, six witnesses have retracted their statements in the case. According to police sources, a section of police officials in Gujarat are working to engineer retraction and managing witnesses so that this is not proved that the encounter was staged managed.
The SIT last week reconstructed the encounter at the scene of offence near Kotarpur, on the outskirts of the city.
The reconstruction was done for the second time with the help of forensic experts from All India Institute of Medical Sciences and Central Forensic Science Laboratory.
Singh, while citing various reasons for quitting, had highlighted the differences between the other two members of the SIT, Mohan Jha and Satish Verma, both Gujarat cadre officer.
Court then asked the Union government to suggest names of officers to replace Singh. Ishrat, along with three others - Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar - was killed in a police encounter on June 15, 2004.
After the encounter, city crime branch claimed the deceased were LeT terrorists who had come to kill Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.