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New chief for Ishrat Jahan probe team


Gandhinagar : The Gujarat High Court Friday appointed a new head for its special investigation team (SIT) probing the Ishrat Jahan suspected staged shoot-out case.

A bench of Justices Jayant Patel and Abhilasha Kumari appointed J.V. Ramudu, an Indian Police Service officer of Andhra Pradesh cadre, to replace Satyapal Singh, of the Maharashtra cadre, after the central government opined that the latter should be relieved.

Satyapal Singh had shown “unwillingness” to probe the case and intended to quit last month. He had moved an application seeking the same before the court.

Assistant Solicitor General P.S. Champaneri stated before the court that the central government has decided to relieve the Mahrashtra Police officer of the task.

The bench however noted that it doesn’t want further hurdles in the probe and warned the central government to have “a better command” over its officers.

Champaneri assured the court that whatever happened in past would not be repeated. He said the Andhra government has agreed to spare the officer and he would be available for the probe. The court then directed Ramudu to take up his new assignment at the earliest.

Karnail Singh, the first head of the SIT, opted out after his transfer to a charge in a north-eastern state. Thereafter Satyapal Singh, who replaced him, had also shown reluctance to investigate the case citing “language problems”.

During the hearing, the court also took a serious note of witnesses’ retractions. “It appears from the record that witnesses are retracting from their statements. This is a very serious issue when investigation is at a very crucial stage,” Justice Patel said.

In this context, he said that whether they were retracting on their own or someone was forcing them was a matter of investigation.

Mukul Sinha, counsel for Gopinath Pillai, the father of Pranesh Pillai, who was killed along with Ishrat, submitted that there seems to be a systematic approach behind such retractions. He requested the court to provide protection to the witnesses.

He further sought registration of a fresh FIR in the case. The court said it would not be required at the present stage.

Sinha also sought that an action taken report regarding the present investigation should be placed before the court and made available to the parties. However the court said it can be decided at a later stage.

Advocate General Kamal Trivedi submitted before the bench that the state would like to file a reply to an application moved by Gopinath Pillai.

Upon the court’s query about forensic reports in the case, Champaneri said the teams were busy in Mumbai after the recent bomb blasts there and it would take some time.

The court then granted three weeks time and posted the matter for hearing on Aug 5.

Mumbai girl Ishrat Jahan and others were allegedly killed by Gujarat Police in an staged shoot-out on June 15, 2004, and portrayed to be Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives on a mission to kill Chief Minister Narendra Modi.