Thursday, April 22

Ishrat Jahan ‘fake’ encounter case: CBI court discharges last three accused

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A special CBI court in Ahmedabad on Wednesday discharged three cops accused in the extrajudicial killing of Ishrat Jahan, Javed Shaikh alias Pranesh Pillai, and two others in June 2004.

The three police officials — IPS officer GL Singhal, retired police officer Tarun Barot, and Anaju Chaudhari — filed the discharge applications on March 20. With the proceedings against the three dropped, the trial has practically come to an end, unless the CBI appeals against the same.

The CBI had not appealed against the discharge of four other officers earlier. This was cited as a ground for the discharge of the last three accused in the case. Special CBI judge VR Raval also noted that “prima facie, there was nothing on record to suggest” that Ishrat Jahan, and the four others who were killed, “were not terrorists.”

Ishrat Jahan, Pranesh Pillai Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar, who were said to be Pakistani nationals, were killed near Kotarpur waterworks on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004, by the Ahmedabad City Detection of Crime Branch, then led by Vanzara. DCB had then claimed that the four were operatives of the Lashkar-e-Taiba out to kill the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

In its charge sheet filed in 2013, the CBI had named seven police officers – P P Pandey, Vanzara, N K Amin, J G Parmar, Singhal, Barot, and Chaudhary — as accused in the case. All the accused were charged with murder, abduction, and destruction of evidence among other charges.

Pandey, who was the joint commissioner of police (crime), Ahmedabad City, at the time of the fake encounter, was discharged in 2018. In May 2019, the special CBI court discharged Vanzara and Amin in the case, while Parmar was abated following his death in September 2020.

While discharging Amin and Vanzara, the special CBI court had largely relied on the fact that the state government had refused to grant sanction to prosecute the two (Vanzara and Amin) and it had not been opposed or challenged by the CBI. Ishrat’s mother, Shamima Kauser, however, had opposed the discharge pleas of Vanzara and Amin.

On March 20, the CBI special public prosecutor submitted a sealed report containing the state government’s refusal to grant sanction to prosecute the three, that is Singhal, Barot, and Chaudhari. Taking a leaf from the discharge of the earlier accused, the three in their applications seeking that the charges against them be dropped on the two key grounds – parity with the discharge of other similarly placed accused officers, and also on the state government’s refusal to grant sanction to prosecute the accused officers. The discharge applications did not touch on the merits of the case.