In yet another twist in controversial Ishrat Jahan and three others encounter case, 14 policemen who were allegedly involved in the staged killing of four people, have moved to the Gujarat high court, seeking CBI probe in the case. They have also suggested, if not CBI, a new SIT consisting of IPS officials from outside Gujarat , should be constituted.
In their petition, they have contended that they are being victimised on account of serious "in fighting" among the IPS officials in the state. They have also alleged that SIT member Satish Verma is taking "prejudicial" and "coercive" steps against them.
However, this frantic move on the part of 14 cops including IPS officer GL Singhal and deputy superintendent of police (DSP) Tarun Barot seems to have been prompted by fear of imminent arrest in the case by the SIT.
Interestingly, the cops' plea for CBI probe is a blow to the state government, as the Gujarat government and these cops have so far opposed probe by the central agency and therefore this SIT was constituted to probe the case.
When asked, whether the state would now oppose the cops' plea for CBI probe, additional chief secretary (home) Balwant Singh told HT, "We will take a formal decision after getting a notice from the court on the petition."
Meanwhile, the court has told the officials that it would hear their plea on May 12, when the case has been scheduled for next hearing.
On April 21, division bench of justice Jayant Patel and justice Abhilasha Kumari had asked SIT member Satish Verma to handle the investigation task of the agency while another member Mohan Jha was restrained to carry out administrative work.
Moreover, the bench had also given freedom to Verma to interrogate any person or make any arrest in the case. It may be noted that Verma had filed an affidavit in the HC in January this year, stating that the encounter was a staged shootout.
The court had also relieved SIT chairman Karnail Singh, who has been transferred from Delhi to Mizoram, making it difficult for him to be associated with the SIT.
On June 15, 2004 Mumbra girl Ishrat Jahan, Pranesh Pillai alias Javed Sheikh, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were gunned down by Ahmedabad Crime branch on the outskirts of the city. The police had claimed that they were operatives of Pakistan-based LeT and were on a mission to kill Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Last year, acting on a petition filed by Shamima Kauser, mother of Ishrat, and Gopinath Pillai, father of Pranesh, the Gujarat high court had constituted a three member SIT to probe the alleged fake encounter case.