Conversation relates to 2011 meeting to discuss ways to save police officers

The contents of a clandestinely recorded conversation to strategise ways to save the police officers whose names figured in the 2004 Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case would find a mention in the charge sheet to be filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation by July 4.

The conversation took place at a meeting purportedly chaired by the then Gujarat Minister of State for Home in November 2011.

The conversations were secretly recorded by Girish Laxman Singhal, one of the two accused police officers who have been arrested by the CBI in the case. “The recording is said to be of a meeting held just before the Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted to probe the killings submitted its finding report before the Gujarat High Court. Among those who attended that meeting were the Gujarat Home Minister (Praful Patel), the then Advocate General, an Indian Administrative Service officer and some police officers, including Mr. Singhal,” said a senior CBI official.

The CBI official said the conversations indicate that the said meeting had been called to chalk out a plan to safeguard interests of the officers whose names could crop up in the SIT report, which stated that Ishrat was killed along with Javed Shaikh alias Pranesh Pillai and two alleged Pakistani nationals Zeeshan Johar and Amjad Ali Rana in an alleged fake encounter on June 15, 2004.

Mr. Singhal, who tendered his resignation earlier this year, was an Assistant Commissioner of Police when the four — declared by the police as terrorists based on intelligence reports — were gunned down. “Particulars of the said conversation between the State Home Minister and other officers have already been mentioned in a status report filed before the Gujarat High Court. The relevant facts would form part of the charge sheet which according to the court directive has to be filed by July 4,” said the officer.

The CBI has so far arrested seven police officers, including IPS officer D.G. Vanzara. Mr. Singhal was released on bail last month after the agency failed to file the charge sheet within the stipulated period of 90 days.

The High Court had in February 2012 pulled up State Home Minister Praful Patel for having failed to execute its longstanding order for the transfer of three of the police officers — Mr. Singhal, Tarun Barot and P.P. Pande — then suspected to be involved in the case.

Top CBI sources said although Intelligence Bureau Special Director Rajendra Kumar has been examined in connection with the case — as he had played a crucial role in forwarding the input on the basis of which Ishrat and three others were gunned down — a decision on whether he would be chargesheeted has not been taken yet. “The (Gujarat) High Court has given clear instructions that we are not required to probe if those killed were terrorists or not. We are only to ascertain whether it was an extrajudicial killing,” said another CBI official, adding that it was too early to say if the agency would make Mr. Singhal an approver in the case.