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Whistleblower cop back at probe helm

Probe in Sohrabuddin case is handed back to the cop who first reported the encounter was fake, report Ketaki Ghoge and Satya Prakash.

india Updated: May 05, 2007 22:58 IST

The Gujrat government on Thursday handed back the probe into the killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh to the same police officer who first reported that the 2005 encounter was a fake one, staged by police teams from Gujarat and Rajasthan.

IGP Geetha Johri was given back the probe files a few hours after the Supreme Court asked the Gujarat government to explain why she was taken off the case.

“I have taken over the investigations. DGP PC Pande conveyed the decision to me,” Johri told HT in the evening. She said she may not be able to complete the investigation by May 15 — the day the court has asked the state government to submit the final status report on the case — but was sure she would have made fair progress by then.

Johri also indicated that more arrests of police personnel are likely on Friday.

Johri, who had submitted to the state government four interim reports on the fake encounter indicting senior police officers, was shunted out of the probe in January, barely eight months after she started investigations. She was replaced by Rajnish Kumar Rai, DIG (CID), who took the probe forward and arrested three IPS officers named in Johri’s reports, including DG Vanzara.

Soon after, Rai was asked to consult Additional DGP OP Mathur before taking any important decision concerning the probe.

Rai told HT he had returned the probe files to Johri. “I was not given any reason (for the replacement) and it is not my duty to ask,” he said.

Earlier in the day, a Supreme Court bench of Justices Tarun Chatterjee and PK Balasubramanyan referred to allegations that Johri was taken off the investigation for “some reasons”.

The court also fixed May 15 for passing orders on a plea filed by Sohrabuddin’s brother seeking a CBI probe into the encounter, and into Sohrabuddin’s wife Kausar Bi’s disappearance. Gujarat is understood to have admitted in the court that Kausar Bi was killed and her body burnt a few days after her husband was shot.

Sohrabuddin was allegedly picked up along with his wife while travelling from Hyderabad to Sangli in Maharashtra. He was killed on November 26, and branded a terrorist plotting to kill Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.

The court held that a prima facie case had been made out for admitting Sohrabuddin's brother's petition and asking the Centre and the state why a CBI probe should not be granted.

The Centre has supported the plea for a CBI probe, but the Gujarat government has expressed apprehension that it might be misused for "political purposes".

Meanwhile, sources in Ahmedabad said with Johri back, the heat may be on minister of state for home Amit Shah, who had been accused in Johri's report of shielding the officials involved in the fake encounter. A source said the ruling BJP might ask Shah to step down in case the investigation team establishes his role in the episode.

The investigation on Thursday led to eight more police personnel, named in Johri’s report, who were detained by the CID and interrogated.