A controversy has erupted over the release on bail of former Gujarat cadre IPS officer DG Vanzara who was arrested in 2007 in connection with several fake encounter killings in that state.
Vanzara came out of jail this week and claimed that "Achhe Din" had come for police officers" who had suffered in Gujarat jail for many years on charges of fake encounter killings.
Vanzara was Inspector General incharge of border areas in Gujarat when petty criminal Sohrabuddin, his wife Kausar Bi and their associate Tulsi Prajapati were killed by the police. The three were travelling by bus from Andhra Pradesh to Gujarat. The case was investigated by the CBI under Supreme Court's monitoring and a chargesheet was filed accusing Vanzara and several others, including Amit Shah, in the fake encounter case.
Amit Shah, who was then incharge of Gujarat Home Ministry, was discharged by the Mumbai High Court recently on the ground that that there was no evidence of his involvement in the killing of Sohrabuddin, his wife and Tulsi Prajapati.
Vanzara believes the court trial will prove eventually that the killing of Sohrabuddin and others had happened in a genuine encounter with the criminals. He also stands as one of the accused in the murder of Ishrat Jahan and the three men who were accused of hatching a terrorist conspiracy.
Vanzara claims he and 26 other policemen of Gujarat who have been in jail under the charge of fake encounter killings did no wrong. In a letter he wrote from jail to the Gujarat government last year he claimed the police officers had become sacrificial lambs for simply following the policy of the State to aggressively combat terror threats to political leaders. He also said in the letter that Amit Shah had let the police officers down as they were all languishing in jail for following State policy. After sending this letter from jail last year, Vanzara resigned from police service.
It is interesting that Vanzara came out of the jail on bail this week and proclaimed that he stood by the letter he wrote to the Gujarat authorities saying police officers of the state were let down by the then Gujarat government.
It is equally interesting to note that nearly all the 28 police officers and constables who went to jail in connection with these alleged fake encounter killings have got bail in recent weeks. Before Vanzara got bail this week, several other police officers had not only got bail but were also reinstated by the Gujarat government in key positions in departments dealing with Law and Order as well as Vigilance.
There was a sense of outrage that even before the criminal trial of these cases had not been concluded, these police officers were being reinstated in such important positions. The BJP spokespersons on TV channels defended this by saying service rules permit officers accused but not convicted of a criminal charge to be reinstated. But legal experts say it may be morally and ethically wrong to reinstate such officers in key positions from where they could possibly influence the case during the trial phase.
After all the officers who are undergoing trial are undergoing trial for serious offences such as murder. The position of law regarding a person on bail is that such a person cannot be in a position to influence the investigation or witnesses. In these case, investigation may be over but trials are yet to begin. Officers like Abhay Chudasama have been reinstated to powerful positions like Superintendent Vigilance. Other officers have been posted to Police HQ.
What is important here is that there are police witnesses in these cases and the accused have now been placed in positions of power over them. In sharp contrast, some police officers who had been especially asked by the higher courts to investigate these alleged fake encounter killings are languishing in what seem like punishment postings in North East and other regions. These police officers have been fighting court cases to restore their rights even as the State authorities have foisted petty cases against them as an intimidation tactic.
The entire criminal justice system in the fake encounter killings seems to have got caught in the sharply polarised politics of Gujarat and indeed the rest of the country. Delivery of justice seems to have become a casualty in the process.
Over all, reinstatement of so many policemen in important positions does not augur well for the possibility of a fair trial in these cases. Some of these cases were investigated by the CBI under the Supreme Court's direct monitoring. It will be interesting to see how the CBI, described as a caged parrot, conducts itself at the trial stage. The moral and ethical foundations of our justice system are under test.
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Updated Date: Feb 22, 2015 10:55:46 IST