Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case closed despite findings of three agencies

The Metropolitan Magistrate, an SIT formed by the High Court and CBI had found the Ishrat Jahan encounter to be fake. Evidence showed that the deceased were in police custody before they were killed

Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case closed despite findings of three agencies

Nachiketa Desai

Nachiketa Desai/ Ahmedabad

It was at a press conference on the morning of June 15, 2004 that the then DIG DG Vanjara made the sensational announcement that police had killed four terrorists out to assassinate Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. The terrorists included a 19-year old college student Ishrat Jahan and two Pakistanis, he informed.

The police version was that a tip-off had been received from the Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau (SIB) that a blue Indica with the terrorists in it was heading towards Gandhinagar. The police intercepted the car and signaled it to stop. When it failed to comply, police shot at the tyres, forcing the car to a halt. One of the terrorists had then got down from the car and started firing at policemen who retaliated, killing all the four.

A reporter of a Gujarati newspaper asked some searching questions to Vanjara, who refused to entertain questions. A few journalists close to the chief minister then shouted the reporter into silence.

IGP (CID Crime) P P Pandey, who I knew since 1995 when he was ADC to the Governor, justified the killing when I met him for more details. He went on to deliver a harangue against the Muslim community saying they were anti-national and loyal to Pakistan. Pandey neither gave more details about the encounter nor substantiated Vanjara’s version.

I had cultivated several IPS officers. One of them was Satish Verma who was appointed to a three-member Special Investigation Team constituted by the Gujarat High Court to investigate the encounter of Ishrat Jahan and three others.

Before the SIT was formed, metropolitan magistrate S P Tamang had already inquired into the encounter and submitted a 200-page hand-written report indicting the Gujarat police for staging a fake encounter to justify the killing of Ishrat Jahan and three others.

After the SIT was constituted, I got a call from Satish Verma who said, “I understand, a crime reporter of a Gujarati daily had raised doubts about Vanjara’s version of the encounter at his press conference, and he knows how the encounter was stage-managed. Please arrange my meeting with him.”

The three of us met at the canteen of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) where the crime reporter revealed that while Ishrat Jahan and Pranesh Pillai, alias Javed Sheikh, were held by the police in the Irrigation department guesthouse near Chandola lake on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, the two alleged Pakistani terrorists Jeeshan Johar and Amzad Ali Rana were held in a farmhouse off the Ahmedabad-Gandhinagar highway for several days. The encounter was clearly staged and the claim that the occupants of the car had opened fire was fake.

Verma followed up on the input, tracked the guards of the irrigation department guesthouse and the farmhouse and got their statements recorded before a magistrate under Section 164 of CrPC. Verma submitted the key witness’ statements to the Gujarat high court.

Meanwhile, three IPS officers, Karnail Singh (UT cadre), Satyapal Singh (Maharashtra cadre) and J V Ramudu (Andhra Pradesh cadre), refused to chair the SIT. Eventually, Bihar cadre IPS officer Rajiv Ranjan Verma headed the SIT which concluded that the encounter was indeed fake and had been staged.

The High Court then transferred the case to the CBI with an FIR filed by RR Verma against 21 policemen, including the Ahmedabad police commissioner K R Kaushik, joint commissioner P P Pandey and DIG D G Vanjara.

However, the Gujarat government refused to give sanction to prosecute the accused IPS officers by the CBI on the plea that they had acted while performing their duty as police officers.

While cases were dropped against the Gujarat police officers, and three of them, including P P Pandey, GL Singhal and N K Amin were reinstated and even promoted, Satish Verma, who, as member of the SIT had filed the charge-sheet against them for fake encounter, was sent on a punishment posting to Shillong and Agartala. Another IPS officer, Rajneesh Rai, who had arrested three of the accused Gujarat officers in the fake encounter case, was given a punishment posting and has sought voluntary retirement.

On the other hand, P P Pandey was not only reinstated but promoted as the director general of police and Vanjara, who was arrested by the CBI and went to jail, was given a promotion after his retirement.

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