SIT investigation is also not satisfactory: Bench

In a strong indictment of the State government, the Gujarat High Court on Friday threatened to transfer the inquiry into the Ishrat Jahan encounter case to a Central agency if it “continues to hamper” the work of the Special Investigation Team. The SIT was appointed by the High Court.

A Division Bench of Justices Jayant Patel and Abhilasha Kumari noted that the State government was “hampering investigation” and this was “not acceptable.” It warned the government not to compel the High Court to transfer the probe to the Central Bureau of Investigation or the National Intelligence Agency.

File another report

The Bench also noted with dismay that the investigation carried out by the three-member SIT so far was “not satisfactory,” and asked it to file another progress report, in a sealed cover, to the Registrar-General of the court by April 21, when the next hearing will be held.

The Bench said it had come to its notice that there was no proper co-ordination and unity among the three main SIT members on the investigation methodology and other matters. What were they doing about the investigation as all work now seemed to be done by Assistant Commissioner of Police V. R. Toliya, who was supposed to merely assist the SIT?

Pulling up the State government, the Bench said its approach “seems to be to see that the SIT does not function, or if it does, then in a paralysed manner.” This approach could not be accepted, Justice Patel said. “It seems that every attempt is being made to hinder the probe,” he told Advocate-General Kamal Trivedi.

Giving instances, the court said SIT member Satish Verma tried to carry forward the investigation on clues gathered by him, but another member Mohan Jha slapped a complaint on him. Both are State cadre IPS officers.

This incident, coupled with the inordinate delay in transferring three other IPS officers whom the court suspected could influence the investigation, “non-availability” of SIT Chairman Karnail Singh and  many other instances, led the court to believe that the “attitude of the State is not proper,” the Bench said.

Chairman not available

 While agreeing that Mr. Karnail Singh was transferred to Mizoram by the Centre, the Bench asked why the State government relieved him without consulting the court. Mr Singh, former Delhi Police Commissioner, was appointed SIT Chairman by the State government at the instance of the High Court and he should not have been relieved without seeking court permission. “The investigation of the SIT should not be hampered or affected in any manner.”

 Pulling up the SIT, the Bench said its “progress report submitted is not to the expectation of the court.” Finding that most of the investigations were being carried out by Mr. Toliya, the court wondered what the main members of the SIT were doing.

Raising questions on non-transfer of the three IPS officers of the State cadre despite its oral directions, the court asked the government to shift within a week Additional Director-General P. P. Pande, Superintendent of Police in the State Anti-Terrorist Squad G. L. Singhal and Deputy Superintendent with the Special Operations Group Tarun Barot.

Provide papers to amicus curiae

On a request from amicus curiae Yogesh Lakhani, the court directed the registry to supply him the papers as, barring his appointment order by the court, he was not given any details about the case from the SIT.

Ishrat Jahan, Pranesh Pillai alias Javed Sheikh, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were killed in an encounter on the outskirts of Ahmedabad in June 2004 by the city Crime Branch police, who accused the four of being Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives out on a mission to kill Chief Minister Narendra Modi.