Vashisht shootout investigation led by former special cell member, questions over impartial probe
The controversy over the encounter killing of conman Manoj Vashisht refuses to die down with the role of a member of the special investigation team leading to questions over the Delhi Police's claim of an impartial probe.
Inspector Ramesh Lamba — who is the investigating officer (IO) in the case and the station house officer of the area where a special cell team gunned down Vashisht on Saturday night — will be quizzing former colleagues he worked closely with on numerous operations during his long stint with the anti-terror unit.
Police records place sub-inspector Bhoop Singh and Inspector Dharmender — two of nine special cell personnel under investigation — with Lamba on the same team that stormed a house in Jamia Nagar in 2008 and killed two terrorists in what came to be known as the Batla House encounter.
Dharmender, who led the squad that killed Vashisht, was then a sub-Inspector as was Lamba. Sources said the two were often sent on outstation assignments. Singh is believed to have fired the fatal shot that killed Vashisht in "self-defence".
Lamba and the two officers had made a trip to Srinagar on August 26, 2005 to arrest Khurshid Ahmed, suspected of being a top operative of the terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed but later acquitted by a city court that found loopholes in the police investigation.
Two years later, Lamba and Dharmender were involved in the arrest of a suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist from Azadpur fruit market. A year before this, the two had arrested two terror suspects, Feroze Abdul Ghasiwala and Mohammed Ali Chipa, from outside Nizamuddin railway station.
Vashisht's wife Priyanka, who met Delhi Police commissioner BS Bassi on Tuesday, said she had urged him to change the investigating officer (IO) and filed a separate plea too. "The IO handles all the evidence and the weapons that were used in my husband's murder. It is the IO who collects the evidence and sends it for forensic examination. That evidence is vital to the case. How can there be a fair probe when he is friends with the accused? I have written to the DCP and asked that the officer be changed."
Priyanka has accused the special cell officers of killing her husband in cold blood.