Gandhinagar/New Delhi: The Gujarat High Court Tuesday appointed a new head – the fourth – of the special investigation team it has set up to probe the allegedly staged Ishrat Jahan shoot-out.
With three successive officers declining to take charge of the probe, on one pretext or the other, the court also sought an explanation from the central government and threatened contempt proceedings if it was not found convincing enough.
The fourth officer appointed Tuesday is R.R. Verma, a 1978 Bihar cadre Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, currently posted as the additional director general of police in the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF).
Before Verma, the high court had selected 1981 batch Andhra Pradesh cadre IPS officer J.V. Ramudu last week. However, he declined to take charge, citing health reasons.
In Delhi, the union home ministry said Ramudu, the third officer opting out of the probe, had done so because of ill health that was not known to the government.
In a bid to put to rest the controversy over the issue, the home ministry said, in a statement, the medical condition of Ramudu was brought to its notice “only after his name had been approved by the (Gujarat) High Court”.
“Neither the state government of Andhra Pradesh nor the officer himself had brought to the notice of (the home ministry) the inability of the officer to be a part of the special investigation team (SIT),” the statement said.
The court has asked the home ministry for a panel of three names for the SIT constituted to investigate the alleged fake shootout killing.
Ramudu’s name was approved by the court July 15.
The statement said the home ministry was informed by the Andhra Pradesh government two days later about “the fact that Ramudu had undergone surgery and required post-operative check ups”.
Ramudu was appointed only after his predecessor Satyapal Singh, a Maharashtra cadre IPS officer, sought to be relieved from the case.
Satyapal Singh’s appointment was made following the first chairman Karnail Singh, a Delhi cadre IPS officer, excused himself from the case, as he was transferred to Mizoram in April.
Ishrat Jahan, a teenager girl from Mumbai along with Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar – were shot dead on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004 by the city Crime Branch.
While the kin of the deceased alleged that the shoot out was staged, police had maintained that Ishrat and her friends were linked to Lashkar-e Taiba and were in the city to assassinate Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Moddi.
Later Ishrat’s mother and father of Javed alias Pranesh moved court for a probe in the killings.