He will be third man to head the team
The Gujarat High Court on Friday appointed J.V. Ramudu, an Andhra Pradesh cadre IPS officer of 1981 batch, chairman of the three-member Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up for conducting a fresh probe into the Ishrat Jahan alleged fake encounter case.
Mr. Ramudu was appointed after a Division Bench of the High Court comprising Justices Jayant Patel and Abhilasha Kumari agreed to relieve the Maharashtra cadre IPS officer Satyapal Singh as the SIT chairman at his request. The two other members of the SIT are the Gujarat cadre IPS officers, Satish Verma and Mohan Jha.
Mr. Ramudu will be the third head of the SIT since it was constituted by the High Court some seven months ago. The first chairman, Karnail Singh, the then Joint Commissioner of Police, Delhi, had to be relieved after he was transferred to Mizoram.
This May, after Mr. Singh was appointed SIT chairman the Maharashtra government had reportedly objected to his taking up the new assignment citing shortage of staff and senior police officers to maintain law and order. Even as took charge as the SIT chairman about a fortnight ago, Mr. Singh moved an application in the High Court seeking permission to be relieved of the responsibility. He cited “personal reasons” and said that as most of the documents required to be examined by the SIT were in Gujarati, he was facing a “language problem.”
The Division Bench had expressed anguish at the frequent changes in the composition of the SIT, which was delaying the investigation and had taken the Central government to task for suggesting such persons who were not willing to take over the responsibility. Mr. Ramudu was appointed chairman only after Assistant Solicitor-General Pankaj Champaneri informed the court that the Centre had consulted both Mr. Ramudu and the Andhra Pradesh government and both had given their consent to the appointment.
Retraction of statements
Mr. Ramudu was selected out of three names the Centre had recommended for the job — the other two being Rajesh Ranjan of the Bihar cadre and R.C. Arora of the Madhya Pradesh cadre. The Division Bench, while appointing Mr. Ramudu, also expressed concern over the retraction of statements by some of the witnesses.
The Mumbra-based college girl Ishrat Jahan and three others were killed in an “encounter” on the outskirts of Ahmedabad in June 2004 by a team of the Ahmedabad Crime Branch police. The team claimed that the four were Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives out to avenge the 2002 communal riots by killing Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and some other Sangh Parivar leaders.