Guj killings: SC appoints Justice Bedi as panel head
The apex court said it wanted the supervision and monitoring of the investigation in the cases should be done by "someone whose integrity is completely beyond any question".
"We, accordingly, deem it fit to request Justice Bedi to head and monitor the investigation of the cases of alleged fake encounter enumerated in the writ petitions," a bench comprising justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai said.
It also rejected the government`s plea seeking extension of time till March 12 to sort out the issue of appointment of chairman. It also asked the Gujarat government to extend full facility and cooperation to Justice Bedi "to enable him to make meaningful, effective investigation into the cases".
The bench said that the monitoring authority will submit its interim report within three months. It also clarified that all its directions contained in its January 25 order will remain operative and shall apply.
The bench expressed its displeasure that after another former apex court judge Justice M B Shah quit as the chairman of the monitoring authority, the Gujarat government appointed former Bombay High Court Chief Justice K R Vayas to the post without consultation it.
The Supreme Court bench had on January 25 asked the monitoring authority to place before it a preliminary report within three months on the killings in alleged fake encounters between 2002 and 2006 in Gujarat, purportedly showing a pattern that people from the minority community were targeted as terrorists.
The bench was hearing two PILs filed by veteran journalist B G Verghese and poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar, who had sought a direction for a probe by an independent agency or the CBI so that the "truth may come out".
Verghese had said the pattern of killings showed there was a need for investigation and had sought a direction to the Centre and the Gujarat government to order an inquiry into the encounter killings and compensation to the next of the kin.
Akhtar, in his petition, had cited news reports and a sting operation done by a news magazine into the killing of an alleged criminal Sameer Khan in October 2002.
The bench, in its order, had noted his allegations that it was a fake encounter and that there was an attempt for its "cover up" by the Gujarat government.
Khan, who was in police custody, was killed on the intervening night of October 21-22, 2002, when he allegedly snatched the revolver of a policeman who had accompanied him with a team to a spot where he had been accused of having murdered a constable.
An FIR was registered alleging that Khan was involved in a conspiracy hatched by Pakistan`s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) to assassinate Gujarat Chief Minister Narender Modi and other leaders.
Akhtar, who jointly filed the petition along with social activist Shabnam Hashmi, had alleged it was the same team of Gujarat police which allegedly killed Sohrabuddin Sheikh in the fake encounter and later murdered his wife Kauser Bi.
Their petitions, filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan, had contended there were other media reports of alleged killings of innocent persons in fake encounters by the same team of Gujarat police and sought investigation by an SIT into the "cover-up".