SIT member raises doubt over Ishrat encounter

Ahmedabad: In a new twist in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case, senior IPS officer and a member of the Special Investigation Team, Satish Verma on Friday raised doubts over the circumstances of the killings before the Gujarat High Court and sought a fresh FIR.

In another development, the High Court appointed advocate Yogesh Lakhani as amicus curiae (to assist the court) in the case.

During the hearing, Mr. Verma told the division bench of Justices Jayant Patel and Abhilasha Kumari that “there are two possibilities in the case: one is that four people (who got) killed in the encounter had come to kill Gujarat Chief Minister (Narendra Modi), and the other is that they were killed in cold blood by the police”.

“There is a possibility of the second one (having taken place) irrespective of the first one,” he told the High Court.

He suggested that there should be a fresh FIR in the case since evidence raises doubts as to under what circumstances shots were fired (at Ishrat Jahan and others).

Ishrat Jahan and three others were killed in an alleged encounter by the Ahmedabad police on June 15, 2004.

The court later formed a three-member SIT to probe the encounter. The SIT is headed by Delhi IPS officer Karnail Singh. IPS officer Mohan Jha is the other member of the team, besides Mr. Verma.

At an earlier hearing, Verma had taken objection to the plea filed by SIT head, seeking appointment of amicus curiae.

Verma had also alleged that Singh did not consult him, and there were differences among the members.

The High Court had then asked both the officers to remain present.

Today, Karnail Singh told the judges that "there is absence of chain of command and model code of conduct in the SIT. The power of SIT members needs to be defined. I am facing number of difficulties which cannot be discussed in the open court".

In his reply, Verma said, "There can be either controlled investigation or dynamic progressive investigation…

investigation cannot be controlled from Delhi…at every point you cannot get prior approvals, as it defeats the purpose of investigation".

Verma also said that amicus curiae could not be used for legal advice by the SIT as it is a party to the case.

After hearing out both the officers, the court appointed advocate Yogesh Lakhani as an amicus curiae. The judges also asked all the members of SIT to work with a team spirit and maintain discipline.

The court while adjourning the hearing directed the SIT to submit a progress report every two months.

The SIT was formed by the High Court on September 24 last year to probe the killing of Mumbai-based Ishrat and three others (Javed Ghulam Sheikh alias Pranesh Kumar Pillai, Amjad Ali alias Rajkumar Akbar Ali Rana and Jisan Johar Abdul Gani) in a reported encounter by crime branch officials near Ahmedabad.