The Gujarat high court asked SIT to file a report whether Ishrat Jahan encounter genuine or fake by September 8. The court has also asked the agency to probe retraction of statements by key witnesses who had earlier questioned the veracity of the encounter in which four persons were killed by Ahmedabad police in June 2004.
Besides, the court has directed SIT head to investigate allegations made against SIT member Mohan Jha, who was allegedly trying to create obstacles in the probe.
"Efforts shall be made by the SIT to try and complete the investigation and submit progress report along with conclusion (if encounter was fake or genuine) by September 8," the division bench of Justices Jayant Patel and Abhilasha Kumari said, while fixing next hearing on September 9.
The Ben h asked SIT's new chairman R R Verma to investigate the retraction of statements of key witnesses and arrest any person, including the Gujarat policemen, who could have influenced the witnesses to retract their previous statements.
It is believed that a section of Gujarat police are working to engineer retractions as otherwise the controversial encounter case will be declared staged shootout, which will lead to arrests of a few IPS and middle level police officials.
"It will be for the SIT chairman to find out if any person has played role in manoeuvring into getting the statements being retracted and thereby frustrating valuable piece of evidence," the court observed in it's order.
Moreover, the court held that Verma could also conduct custodial interrogation of any person if he wants while no other member of the SIT should be involved in the probe related to retraction of statements.
The three member SIT is headed by Verma, Bihar cadre IPS official currently serving central reputation while two other members Mohan Jha and Satish Verma are Gujarat cadre cops.
Earlier, Satish Verma had alleged that Jha was connected with retraction of statement by some of the witnesses. On this allegation, the court found some substance and held that if there was any material against any SIT member in the retraction of statement, RR Verma shall not take direct action but submit report regarding it to court in a sealed cover. It took serious note of the retraction of statement by witnesses Moti Desai and Shiv Singh.
In January this year, Satish Verma had filed an affidavit stating that the encounter was staged and four persons were killed by the police.
On Friday, amicus curiae Yogesh Lakhani said the pace of investigation was very slow so the court should dir ected the SIT to expedite the probe.
The probe in the case is being supervised directly by the Gujarat High Court which had constituted the SIT last year to investigate genuineness of the encounter after petitions filed by Ishrat's mother Shamima Kausar and Gopinath Pillai, father of another victim of the encounter — Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai.