An outside agency was sought for probing the case as IGP Satish Verma, known to be an honest official, was part of earlier SITs

Following the filing of the charge sheet in the Ishrat Jahan case, the Bharatiya Janata Party is going hammer and tongs against the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), with Chief Minister Narendra Modi calling it a Congress Bureau of Investigation. But the Gujarat Government and the accused police officials had themselves sought an inquiry by the CBI or any agency independent of the Gujarat Police.

A division bench of Justice Jayant Patel and Justice Abhilasha Kumari of the Gujarat High Court said in paragraph 42 of its December 1, 2011, order entrusting the case to the CBI that the Advocate General of the State Government had said the court may ask the National Investigation Agency (NIA) or the CBI to probe the encounter.

The accused policemen had filed an application to the Gujarat High Court in April of 2011 asking for such an inquiry. This application, called Miscellaneous Criminal Application 5853 of 2011, was filed by Superintendent of Police G. L. Singhal, Deputy Superintendent of Police Tarun Barot and 12 other policemen. Eight of them have now been arrested. Mr. Singhal and Mr. Barot figure in the first CBI chargesheet in the Ishrat case.

The application in prayer clause number 5 ( c ) reads: “That this Hon’ble Court be further pleased to pass necessary orders transferring the further investigation of FIR being DCB 1st C.R. No. 8/04 to the Central Bureau of Investigation.”

And clause number 5 (d) says, “Alternatively this Hon’ble Court be pleased to pass necessary orders constituting a new SIT (special investigation team) comprising of Senior IPS cadre officers not associated to or posted with the Gujarat police and further be pleased to transfer the further investigation of FIR being DCB 1st C.R. No. 8/04 to the said newly constituted SIT, if any.”

Highly placed sources told The Hindu that the Gujarat government and the accused police officials had asked for an outside agency to probe the case owing to the presence of Gujarat IPS official Satish Verma — an IGP known to be an honest and a no-nonsense official — in the previous special investigation teams. “It was only ironical that the Gujarat High Court retained Satish Verma to assist the CBI,” quipped a senior official.

Investigations in the Ishrat case have had a chequered background. The case was first handed over to an SIT comprising IPS officials Pramodkumar, J. K. Bhatt and Mohan Jha. The Gujarat High Court formed another SIT after this team failed. The new team had Satish Verma, Mohan Jha and Karnail Singh of the Delhi Police as the head.

Singh excused himself because of a Mizoram posting. Maharashtra official Satyal Singh came in his place but he cried off saying he did not know Gujarati. Then came Andhra Pradesh’s R. R. Rumudu who cited health grounds. Finally, he was replaced by R. R. Verma as the head. This SIT called the shootings a fake encounter.

But R. R. Verma too did not last long and then Gujarat IPS officer Mohan Jha also left, leaving IGP Satish Verma all alone. The high court then asked the CBI to take over the investigations in December 2011 with Mr. Verma assisting.