Probe in the controversial encounter killing of Mumbra girl Ishrat Jahan and three others is facing another hurdle as Maharashtra government has refused to spare its IPS officer Dr Satyapal Singh, who was picked up by Gujarat high court to head a three member special investigation team (SIT).
Dr Singh is 1980 batch Maharashtra cadre IPS officer and is currently additional director (establishment).
In a letter to the union home ministry, Maharashtra home department has told that the state cannot spare the officer for the probe as the state is facing law and order problems arising from naxals' activities and farmers protests in several areas, making it difficult to let a senior officer joint investigation team.
The letter has also regretted that the union ministry had not sought concurrence of the state before including his name in a panel of three IPS officers submitted to the high court from which the court picked up Singh to head the probe team.
"We heard that additional chief secretary (home) of Maharashtra has written to the union government as why the state cannot allow Dr Singh to head the team," a member of the SIT told HT. The SIT includes two IPS of Gujarat cadre: Mohan Jha and Satish Verma.
Earlier, Dr Satyapal Singh's appointment as SIT chief was necessitated following the exit of previous head Karnail Singh, who was transferred from Delhi to Mizoram, thus was not available to supervise the investigation.
However, Maharashtra government's belated stand on the issue has come as surprising as the letter was written on June 6 while the high court had appointed Singh in May 12. The court has posted the case for further hearing on June 24.
Following the constitution of SIT to probe the encounter killings carried out by a team of policemen of Ahmedabad crime branch, SIT member Satish Verma in January 2011, had dubbed the encounter as staged shootout in an affidavit filed in the court. He had also recommended lodging of fresh FIR in the case. However, the court had insisted on further probe.
In 2004, Ishrat Jahan and three others were bumped off by Ahmedabad crime branch police team, maintaining that the four "terrorists" were associated with Pakistan-based LeT and were on a mission to kill Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.
However, a judicial inquiry conducted by magistrate SP Tamang, in 2009, had concluded based on medical and forensic evidence that the encounter was a staged and it was a case of "cold blooded murder" by the police. He had also recommended filing a case of murder against 22 policemen including former police commissioner of Ahmedabad KR Kaushik, who is now retired.