The Supreme Court on Friday disapproved the manner in which the Narendra Modi government issued the order appointing Justice K.R. Vyas to probe the 22 cases of fake encounter deaths in the State from 2003 to 2006.
On January 25, a Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Desai asked retired Supreme Court judge M.B. Shah, who was heading the Monitoring Authority (MA), to probe the 22 fake encounters and submit an interim report in three months.
The Bench had passed this order on two petitions filed by Javed Akhtar, B.G. Varghese and others for a direction to order a CBI probe into all the 22 fake encounters that took place in the State from 2003 to 2006.
On Thursday, senior counsel Ranjit Kumar and Additional Advocate General of Gujarat, Tushar Mehta, informed the Bench that Justice Vyas, retired Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court and former chairman of the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission, had been appointed to probe the matter since Justice Shah had expressed his inability to take up the task.
When Mr. Mehta said the notification for appointment was issued only on Thursday, Justice Alam told counsel: “We should also have been told about the proposal for the appointment of the new chairman. You should have taken us into confidence also. We shall not change the basic structure [retired Supreme Court judge] as to who will be the monitoring person.”
When Mr. Kumar said the notification was issued since it was a time-bound order, Justice Alam said: “Since the order concerns us, you should have come to us. You [Gujarat government] have unnecessarily complicated the matter. You can't present fait accompli to the court.” He, however, said “we are not seeking to pre-empt anything.”
Mr. Mehta said: “While we share the anxiety of the human rights groups about the encounters, why [probe] should it be confined to the State of Gujarat alone?” Counsel Nitya Ramakrishnan and Prashant Bhushan pleaded for appointing a special investigation team headed by a retired Supreme Court judge to probe these encounters. The Bench posted the matter for further hearing on February 27.
Modi knew what was happening: Bhatt
Special Correspondent writes from Ahmedabad:
The suspended IPS officer, Sanjiv Bhatt, on Friday contradicted Mr. Modi's claim that he was not aware of the developments in the Gulberg Society on February 28, 2002, till about the attack was over. The former Congress member of the Lok Sabha, Ehsan Jafri, was among the 69 who lost their lives in the post-Godhra massacre.
Commenting on the alleged “leakage” of Mr. Modi's statement before the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team in March 2010, Mr. Bhatt, who was then the deputy commissioner of the State Intelligence Branch , claimed he himself had two meetings with the Chief Minister the same day and informed him about the developments in Gulberg Society, including the impending threat to Jafri's life.
“The devious fraudulence and chicanery resorted to in the answering of questions put to him by the SIT as well as the inadequacy of the questioning itself become evident,” Mr. Bhatt said.