Friday, September 24, 2010

Ishrat case probe: Batla House cop to head SIT

Ahmedabad: A bench of the Gujarat High Court on Friday appointed a Delhi-based IPS officer and two other officers from Gujarat in the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to reinvestigate the controversial Ishrat Jahan encounter case.

The man who heads this new SIT, joint commissioner (special branch) Karnail Singh of 1984 batch, was part of the controversial Batla House encounter at Jamia Nagar in Delhi in 2008. He is the senior most in the list of five officers provided by the Centre to the HC. The other two officers are 1985 batch officer Mohan Jha, who heads the Ahmedabad crime branch and was proposed by the state government, and 1986 batch’s Satish Verma, now posted in Gujarat Police Housing Corporation. Verma’s name was suggested by petitioner Gopinath Pillai. Ishrat’s mother Shamima Kauser had demanded a CBI probe.
Jha was also part of the first SIT constituted last year which was dissolved by the HC division bench. Later, the HC directed the Godhra SIT under RK Raghavan to take up the case but it refused. The bench of Justices Jayant Patel and Abhilasha Kumari asked the state government to issue a notification within two weeks. The team is expected to submit the report within three months.
It would not take assistance from the officers involved in the encounter. Importantly, this SIT will have full powers as conferred under Criminal Procedure Code to investigate the case. The Ishrat Jahan encounter came into focus last year following the metropolitan magistrate S P Tamang’s inquiry report that called it fake and picked holes in the police story. The issue reached the Supreme Court leading to disbanding of the SIT by the division bench. The High Court had then asked all interested parties to provide their list of officers for the SIT.
On June 15, 2004, Ishrat, Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Akbar Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were killed in a shoot-out on the outskirts of the city by a crime branch team headed by DG Vanzara. The cops dubbed them Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives out to kill chief minister Narendra Modi. Twice bitten, always shy: Govt brings in policy for encounter death probes
Ahmedabad: In order to avoid instances like Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case and to ensure that the probe in the shoot-out cases does not go to any central agency, the state government has come up with a policy of its own. This will guide the process of investigation in police encounters.
The draft, prepared on September 16, puts forth the ground for the need of the policy, stating that this is not only to prevent fake encounters, but also to see that Gujarat police force is not demoralised. A special task force (STF) comprising senior cops will be constituted for impartial inquiry in encounter killings. In addition, a monitoring authority will oversee the probe. The state government has decided not to grant out-of-turn promotions, cash or gallantry awards to the officers involved in the encounter.
STF will be under direct supervision of DGP and will be headed by an IGP. It will consist of an IGP, DIG, three SPs, four DSPs and five inspectors. The IGP of the nearest range of any encounter will become the member of STF. The monitoring authority, which is above STF, will receive the complaints from the kin of the victims of the encounter. This authority will be headed by a retired Supreme Court or high court judge, whose tenure will be of five years. The state human rights commission member, district judge, home department secretary, DGP, director of FSL and IG (law and order) will be members of the monitoring authority.
The government has enumerated 13 functions for STF, asking it to register the FIR as soon as relatives of encounter victims complaint. The cops involved in encounter cannot become part of the probe team. STF will follow procedure manuals of CBI and CID for probe. STF will also assist in the magisterial inquiry. The amount of compensation to the relatives of the victim will be decided by the monitoring authority, but the issue will be decided only after STF completes its probe. The notification makes it a rule that the officers involved in encounter will remain under suspension, but only after the monitoring committee recommends it.

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