Former Gujarat police offcers DG Vanzara and NK Amin may have been discharged by a special CBI court in the 15-year-old Ishrat Jahan 'fake' encounter case, but this may not be the journey's end them. Ishrat's mother Shamima Kauser is likely to move high court challenging the lower court's order to drop proceedings against the duo, also the key accused in alleged fake encounter case.
And what strengthens suspicions that the long-drawn courtroom battle may still be far from an end is the fact that the CBI court's decision to discharge them comes on a flimsy technical ground rather than a strong case by the defendant.
The special CBI court discharged Vanzara and Amin, only because the Gujarat government refused to grant sanction to the CBI to prosecute them. Under section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the government's sanction is necessary for prosecution of a public servant for an act done as part of official duty.
The court had in the past rejected their discharge applications in the same case.
While Vanzara and Amin claimed that they stood vindicated by the order after a 15-year-long wait, the lawyers of Ishrat's mother Shamima Kauser said they will challenge the order before the high court.
"We have been arguing that government sanction was not needed to prosecute them. We will definitely approach the high court," said Kauser's lawyer Shamshad Pathan.
Amin said though he was happy, the order in their favour should have come immediately after former IPS officer PP Pandey was discharged from the case in February last year.
"This order has vindicated our stand that we were acting in the line of duty and protecting Gujarat. That is the reason the government did not give its sanction. In reality, we were the real victims. And today, we got justice," Amin told reporters outside the court.
Vanzara said the order established that the encounter was genuine.
"Gujarat Police fought against terrorism. I have been saying from day one that all the encounters were genuine and those who got killed were terrorists. Now, this court verdict has once again established that encounters were done as part of our duty. I thank the judiciary," he said.
Ishrat, a 19-year-old from Mumbra near Mumbai, Javed Shaikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjadali Akbarali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were killed by the Gujarat Police in an encounter on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on 15 June, 2004. The police claimed they were terrorists who were planning to kill then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.
However, a high court-appointed Special Investigation Team held that the encounter was fake. Subsequently, the CBI registered a case against several police officials for the alleged fake encounter killings.
During the case, while the CBI refused to take any stand on the state government's decision to decline sanction to prosecute the two accused, the mother of Ishrat Jahan, Kauser, had opposed their applications.
In a written submission made through her lawyer Vrinda Grover, Kauser had said that the pleas to drop proceedings were "untenable in law and unsustainable on facts", and that the state government was not the appropriate authority to refuse sanction to prosecute the two officers. She said the order of the state government amounted to "interference with the administration of justice".
"It is a matter of record that it is the Union ministry of Home Affairs and not the state of Gujarat which is the appropriate sanctioning authority in the present case," she said.
Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to seek sanction for prosecution was not applicable in the present case that deals with "abduction, confinement and murder", which were grave and heinous crimes falling outside the scope of official duty, she contended.
"The material on record shows that there was no encounter/confrontation with the deceased, that the encounter was set up and a fake encounter staged," she said.
Meanwhile, Vanzara's lawyer VD Gajjar argued that the court cannot determine the validity of the sanction order and any review was not possible.
He said judicial findings of the case had established that there was no "fake encounter" on part of the police officers.
He said the sanction for prosecution was declined after the state government went through materials on record, examined the facts and circumstances of the case fully.
Vanzara, a former IPS officer, and Amin, who recently retired as a superintendent of police, had moved the pleas seeking that the proceedings against them be dropped soon after the CBI told the court that the Gujarat government has not given its sanction to prosecute them.
On 7 August, 2018, the court had rejected the discharge applications of Vanzara and Amin, and also sought to know from the CBI whether the agency had requested the government for a sanction to prosecute them, so that the court could frame charges against them and start the trial.
The first charge-sheet filed by the CBI in 2013 named seven Gujarat police officers, including IPS officers PP Pandey, Vanzara and GL Singhal, as accused. The court later discharged Pandey.
The chargesheet alleged that the encounter was indeed fake and she was wrongfully confined, tranquilised and murdered in cold blood.
The chargesheet also raised questions over the role of Intelligence Bureau, however, it did not say whether the girl from Mumbai and three others killed with her were terrorists saying there was no mandate from the high court to investigate their status.
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Updated Date: May 03, 2019 17:14:36 IST