Ishrat Jahan case: Contempt notice to Gujarat official


Gandhinagar: The Gujarat High Court Thursday issued notice for contempt proceedings against a senior state home ministry official for delaying transfers of the top police officers in relation to the Ishrat Jehan staged shootout case. The notice is returnable May 11.

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A high court bench of Justice Jayant Patel and Justice Abhilasha Kumari issued notice to the additional chief secretary of the home department while hearing the status report filed by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) which is probing the shootout under its orders.

The court had earlier directed the government to transfer three police officers – additional DGP P.P. Pande, superintendent of police G.L. Singhal and deputy superintendent of police Tarun Barot – who are the target of investigation by the SIT.

Justice Patel told Advocate General Kamal Trivedi that prima facie, the state did not comply with the court’s order and it would like to initiate contempt proceedings against the officer who failed to comply with the orders.

Justice Patel said: “There is material on record to suggest that the officers were not transferred till the Central Forensic Team and team from AIIMS visited the state. Prima facie it seems to have been an attempt of the state to hamper the investigation.”

The court also allowed the SIT chief, Karnail Singh, to be relieved from the team. The court noted that considering the stand taken by the Mizoram government, where Singh has been transferred, it was desirable to relieve him from the SIT.

Demarcating duties, the court then handed over the actual investigation of the case to SIT member Satish Verma while directing the other member, Mohan Jha to look after the administrative work. The court has allowed Verma the discretion to choose any officer who is not connected with the case for assisting him and directed the government to spare such an officer for help in carrying out the probe.

Instead of allowing registration of second FIR in the case, the court wanted the SIT to conduct the probe at this stage based on the first FIR. The court however allowed Verma to interrogate and arrest people that may be required based upon the material available with him.

The court also concurred with Karnail Singh’s submission seeking direction to the National Investigtion Agency (NIA) to provide the SIT with a report which it has sought in connection with the case. Justice Patel told central government counsel P.S. Champaneri that if the NIA had any difficulty in furnishing the information, then it should be reported to the court.

The court has further directed the central government to propose an officer of a higher rank than Verma and Jha, who the court may include in the SIT as a chairman.

The matter is now slated to come up on May 12.

The court took the view that the said instance, coupled with non transfer of the three police officers who may influence the investigation, non availability of the chairman of SIT and his reliving order by the state, and other instances, leads the court to believe that the “attitude” of the state is not proper.

Ishrat Jahan, Pranesh Pillai, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were killed in a staged shootout in outskirts of Ahmedabad in June 2004 by the city crime branch officials. The police had termed them as LeT operatives on mission to kill the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.