Probe report finds three Gujarat encounters fake, says prosecute guilty cops

Satish Jha
Ishrat Jahan, her friend Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh, Amzad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were killed in an alleged fake encounter by the Ahmedabad police on the outskirts of the city in June 2004. (File)

In his report submitted to the state government, retired Supreme Court judge Harjit Singh Bedi, looking into fake encounters in the state, has found three encounters by Gujarat Police – of Samir Khan Pathan, Haji Ismail, and Kasim Jafer – were fake. The report suggests prosecution of the accused policemen for murder.

Among police personnel mentioned in the report are retired officials Tarun Barot and K M Vaghela, both facing trial in the Sadiq Jamal Mehtar encounter case. Barot is also a key accused in Ishrat Jahan encounter.

The encounter of Samir Pathan, in October 2002, was the first after the post-Godhra riots. The police had said that Pathan had plotted to kill then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi to avenge killing of Muslims in the riots.

The Detection of Crime Branch (DCB), whose officers were responsible for the encounter, was then headed by now-retired IPS D G Vanzara (accused in Ishrat’s encounter). The DCB had stated that Pathan was a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist.

Vanzara’s senior in DCB was former Gujarat DGP P P Pandey, who was discharged in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case last year.

In the "fake encounter" of Haji Ismail, a smuggler who came from Jamsalaya in Jamnagar, Justice Bedi has recommended criminal case against police officers K G Erda, J M Yadav, S K Shah, Parag Vyas, LB Monpara. Erda was accused in the Gulberg Society massacre case of 2002 and was later acquitted.

In the encounter of Kasim Jafer in 2006, the police had reported death due to road accident. Justice Bedi’s report found Deputy SP J M Bharwad and Constable Ganeshbhai responsible for Jafer’s death. The report notes that the duo should be prosecuted for murder.

When he was killed, Samir Pathan had already been arrested for being allegedly associated with Jaish. The police had said he had undergone terror training in Pakistan. DCB officials handed him over to K M Vaghela of Naranpura police in connection with a constable’s murder.

A team led by Vaghela, Tarun Barot, J G Parmar (accused in Sadiq Jamal and Ishrat counter cases), among others, took Pathan to the scene of offence where he had allegedly killed the constable. At the site, the police had alleged, Pathan snatched Vaghela’s revolver and opened fire in a bid to escape. Barot and A A Chauhan (now deceased) fired two and a single round, respectively, hitting Pathan on the head and chest.

He was declared dead on arrival in hospital.

From records, Justice Bedi found that the case based on which he was arrested and branded a terrorist, along with 15 others, could not stand judicial scrutiny. The report noted that all the accused, barring Pathan, who was already dead, were discharged by sessions court, followed by the Gujarat High Court and the Supreme Court.

Allegations by DCB, the retired judge noted, were "completely disbelieved" by all courts – right up to the Supreme Court. The report states: "It was observed inter alia that as per the prosecution, the deceased had gone to Pakistan on January 13, 1998. The passport under which he was supposed to have travelled had been issued on March 27, 1998 – that too in name of Nawab Khan, and no person by that name had gone to Pakistan."

Justice Bedi observed that when Pathan, who was facing six cases, was brought to the site to reconstruct the constable’s murder in Naranpura, Ahmedabad, in 1996, he was "not properly handcuffed". "It appears that this was done deliberately…to make out a plausible story to justify killing," he noted.

The other aspect of Justice Bedi’s report is based on a letter from Chitranjan Singh, in-charge police chief of Ahmedabad city, to Joint CP (DCB) P P Pandey. In it, Singh had raised certain queries to be responded to the human rights commission.

Singh had questioned the delay in getting a transfer warrant (October 22, 2002) in the constable’s murder case. This case had already been transferred to DCB on October 1. Singh had also questioned about procedure – not keeping prisoners handcuffed.

Justice Bedi’s report mentioned Singh’s other letter, in which he questioned how Inspector Vaghela got transfer warrant for Pathan instead of Inspector J G Parmar, who was handed over the probe. "It appears that no reply was received to those two letters," the report states.

From here, the Pathan case was referred to DSP I K Yadav of CID (Crime).

Concluding that Pathan was shot dead from a close range, Justice Bedi notes that "injuries found on the body could not have been caused from a distance of 5 to 6 feet but had been caused from a closer, almost point blank range."

He noted that if Inspectors Barot and Chauhan had indeed been at a distance of five or six feet, the "trajectory (of bullet) indicated would not have been possible. It is, therefore, obvious that the officers were close and towering over the deceased, and he was probably sitting on ground and perhaps cringing [begging] for life."

The report states that when investigating officer Yadav asked certain questions, the DCB officials refused to meet him. It says Vanzara wrote to Yadav and "admonished him."

Vanzara’s letter to Yadav has been reproduced in the report.

In it, Vanzara has snubbed Yadav by saying that the decision on arresting an accused is "irrelevant and outside the purview of the work of your good self". Vanzara also wrote that Yadav had no right to interfere with the Crime Branch’s work.