Ishrat case: Court discharges 3 cops, says no question of 'fake encounter'

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(Eds: Adding court's observations) Ahmedabad, Mar 31 (PTI) A special CBI court here on Wednesday discharged three police officers in the 2004 Ishrat Jahan case and observed that there was 'no question of any fake encounter' on their part and that there is nothing on record, even prima facie, to show that the four deceased in the case were not terrorists.

The court of special judge V R Raval made the observation while discharging police officers G L Singhal, Tarun Barot (now retired) and Anaju Chaudhary in the Ishrat Jahan case. The fourth applicant, J G Parmar, had died during the course of hearing.

They were the last accused in the case against whom charges of murder, abduction, and criminal conspiracy were dropped by the court after the Gujarat government declined prosecution sanction against them as sought by the CBI on the order of the same court.

Out of the total seven accused against whom the CBI had filed a charge sheet in 2013, three other police officers- P P Pandey, D G Vanzara and N K Amin- had been discharged in 2018 and 2019.

'Being high rank police officers, it was their bounden duty to take necessary steps in order to maintain law and order. There is no question of any fake encounter on the part of any such police officer. All the police officers were to be more cautious and alert to maintain peace in the public at large,' the court said in its order.

It said that the information received by the police officers regarding the four victims 'was correct, sound, and there was substantial force in the information'.

'There is nothing on record, even prima facie, to suggest that the victims were not terrorists...the IB inputs were not genuine,' the court observed.

It further said that the four offenders were 'not simple and ordinary'.

'It's clear that the act which is alleged to have been done by the accused was in discharge of their duties or purported to be in discharge of their duties,' it said.

'The CBI has not mentioned anything specific against the sanction order (in which the Gujarat government declined sanction to prosecute the three accused) which also leads to believe the act of applicants/accused was in discharge of official duties,' the court observed.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had on March 20 conveyed to the court that the state government had declined sanction for prosecution of the three accused.

The court, in its October 2020 order, observed that they had 'acted in their official duties,' so the probe agency was required to obtain sanction for prosecution.

Under section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code, sanction is required for prosecuting government servants for anything done in the discharge of official duty.

Ishrat Jahan, a 19-year-old woman from Mumbra near Mumbai, was killed along with Javed Shaikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjadali Akbarali Rana and Zeeshan Johar by Gujarat police in an 'encounter' near Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004.

The police claimed the four were terrorists who were planning to assassinate the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

However, a high court-appointed Special Investigation Team concluded that the encounter was fake, after which the CBI registered a case against various police officials.

Inspector General of Police Singhal, retired police officers Barot and J G Parmar, and Chaudhary had filed applications before the court seeking dropping of proceedings for want of the requisite sanction to prosecute them.

On Wednesday, the judge said when this court earlier observed that the act of the accused was while discharging official duties, nobody challenged the order.

'Not only that, but the Central Government and the Government of Gujarat have also believed that the act of the applicants/accused is while discharging the duties and therefore, the government was moved for sanction and the sanction is refused also,' the court observed.

There is nothing on record, even prima facie, to suggest that the victims were not terrorists and the IB inputs were not genuine, the court said in its order.

'The CBI has not mentioned anything specific against the sanction order which also leads to believe the act of applicants/accused was in discharge of official duties,' it said.

The court also refused to accept the argument put forth by Special Public Prosecutor for the CBI, R C Kodekar, that the government order declining sanction to prosecute the three applicants was issued without the application of mind.

In 2019, the CBI court dropped proceedings against former police officers Vanzara and Amin, after the state government refused sanction to prosecute them.

Earlier, in 2018, former in-charge Director General of Police P P Pandey was discharged from the case.

The court on Wednesday discharged Singhal, Chaudhary and Barot from offences under IPC Sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 341, 342, 343 (all for wrongful restraint), 365 (kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine person), 368 (wrongfully concealing or keeping in confinement, kidnapped or abducted person), 302 (murder) and 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence).

They were also discharged under sections 25(1)(e) and 27 of the Indian Arms Act. PTI KA PD VT GK NP NP