In a surprise move, 14 police personnel involved in the Ishrat Jahan ‘fake encounter,' including the state cadre IPS officer and police superintendent G.L. Singhal, on Tuesday moved the Gujarat High Court seeking a CBI investigation in the case.

In a petition filed in the High Court, the policemen pleaded that either the court appoint another Special Investigation Team to investigate the Ishrat case or hand it over to the CBI. They did not want the present SIT, also appointed by the High Court, to continue with the investigation.

The High Court last week gave unbridled powers to SIT member Satish Verma to “question anyone or arrest anyone” based on the evidence available with him in connection with the Ishrat case. Mr. Verma was given the sole responsibility of the investigation and the other SIT member, Mohan Jha, asked to look after only the administrative side of the investigation. The High Court earlier agreed to relieve SIT chairman Karnail Singh, the former Delhi joint commissioner of police, who has been transferred to Mizoram. The government in that State refused to spare Mr. Singh to continue with the Ishrat case investigation.

The petition assumes significance as Mr. Verma has been aggressively pursuing the investigation, creating fear among the 14 police personnel that they could be put in prison. The petitioners alleged that Mr. Verma was “very vindictive and is carrying out the probe in a biased manner.”

Mr. Verma had recently informed the court that the evidence in his possession points to a “fake encounter.” The petitioners maintained that the way Mr. Verma was carrying out the investigation, “it seems that either he has some personal grudges against the officials or is acting at the behest of some senior vindictive and prejudicial IPS officer.”

The petitioners also expressed the apprehension that Mr. Verma could also try to create false evidence to implicate them in the case. According to Brajesh Limbachhiya, their counsel, Mr. Verma had been “holding a bias against the personnel from day one and was trying to frame them.”

However, Mukul Sinha, who has been representing Gopinath Pillai, the father of Pranesh Pillai alias Javed Sheikh, who was also killed in the encounter with Ishrat, however, disagreed with the petitioners and described the move as a “mere delaying tactics.” He pointed out that the same officials had earlier dubbed the CBI as the “Congress Bureau of Investigation” when the former Minister of State for Home, Amit Shah, was arrested in connection with the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case, but was now seeking investigation by the same agency. “This is nothing but another ploy to further delay the already late investigation into the fake encounter that took place in June 2004,” he said.