Even as it continued to interrogate the former Gujarat Minister of State for Home, Amit Shah, in the Sabarmati jail complex for the second day on Thursday, the CBI may seek a directive from the Supreme Court to question Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who holds the Home portfolio.
The CBI's investigating officers in the case of murder of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kausar Bi are believed to have sought the headquarters' permission to question Mr. Modi. But with the central agency due to submit a progress report in the apex court in the next couple of days to keep its July 30 deadline, it may refer the Modi questioning in its report to seek guidelines and also seek an extension of the time-limit to complete the investigation.
An indication of the CBI's keenness to question Mr. Modi was available from Mr. Shah's interrogation on Thursday, when the central agency reportedly asked a series of questions about the transfer of top police officers from time to time and how much Mr. Modi, in his capacity as the Home Minister, was aware of them.
Several transfers that had intrigued the investigating agencies, the State CID (Crime) earlier and the CBI now, at crucial junctures of the investigations into the Sohrabuddin fake encounter and his close associate, Tulsi Prajapati, a year later.
While for most of the questions Mr. Shah continued to give replies such as “I don't remember” and “I can't recollect,” about Mr. Modi he is believed to have said the top police transfers could be ordered only by the Cabinet rank Home Minister or the Chief Minister and all the changes apparently were made with the knowledge of Mr. Modi.
Among the transfers that raised doubts about the sincerity of the State administration in investigating the case was the frequent changes made in constituting the CID (Crime) team to investigate the incident. Senior IPS officer Geetha Johri, who admitted in the Supreme Court that the Sohrabuddin's was a case of fake encounter, was dropped and DIG Rajnish Rai was asked to investigate. But soon after the arrest of IPS officers D. G. Vanzara and Rajkumar Pandian of the Gujarat cadre and Dinesh Kumar M. N. of the Rajasthan cadre, Mr. Rai was promptly sent to some obscure posting and Ms Johri was re-entrusted with the investigation.
The sudden transfer of Mr. Vanzara as DIG, border range, a few days before the killing of Tulsi Prajapati to the border district of Banaskantha, was equally baffling and the investigating agencies believe that the change was deliberately made to facilitate the Tulsi encounter.
The investigating team has reportedly sought similar permission on April 14 for the arrest of Mr. Shah and the Deputy Police Commissioner, Ahmedabad Crime Branch, Abhay Chudasma. Sources in the CBI said that while Mr. Chudasma's detention was cleared by the headquarters and he was arrested on April 28, the permission to arrest Mr. Shah was withheld then and cleared much later. The former Minister was picked up only on July 25.
The CBI has summoned the controversial former DGP, P. C. Pande, to appear before it for questioning by August 11, and Ms. Johri, now the Rajkot Police Commissioner, to appear before August 10. Ms. Johri is now on training in the United Kingdom and is expected to return in August first week.
The retired ADGP, O. P. Mathur, who succeeded G.C. Raigar as the head of the CID (Crime) when it was investigating the Sohrabuddin encounter, has so far evaded appearing before the CBI on grounds of illness of his mother. Mr. Raigar has promptly responded to the CBI summon and is believed to have some information about the transfers and other issues related to the fake encounter. Mr. Pande was the DGP when the CID (Crime) was investigating into the fake encounter.