Nine years after Ishrat Jahan and three others were killed, the Central Bureau of Investigation filed its first chargesheet in the Ishrat Jahan case in the court of Special CBI judge H.S.Khutvad in Ahmedabad on Wednesday.
It stated that the 19 year old college girl Ishrat and three others were abducted and then killed in a staged encounter by officers and men of the Ahmedabad Crime branch. It has charged seven top cops with murder, conspiracy and destruction of evidence, illegal confinement, abduction and other sections of the Arms Act. Their names are Additional director general of police P.P. Pandey, DIG D.G. Vanzara, Superintendent of police G.L. Singhal, deputy superintendents N.K. Amin, Tarun Barot and J.G. Parmar besides Anaju Chaudhary. The CBI has found no charges against nine policemen whose statements were recorded under section 169 of the CrPC.
Contrary to largescale media speculation, the first chargesheet does not touch on either the name of the then minister of state for home Amit Shah who is now the BJP general secretary incharge of Uttar Pradesh, nor the Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.
With mediapersons waiting expectedly since morning, the CBI lawyer I.S. Saiyed walked into the special CBI court past 5 p.m. to inform judge Khutvad that the very bulky chargesheet had been sent to the court custody while a gist of it was being presented and read out in the courtroom.
The chargesheet stops short of naming central Intelligence Bureau joint director Rajendra Kumar who was heading the Gujarat station when the Mumbra college student and the three others were killed on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004. It has made clear though, that his role in the case is suspect and calls for further investigation. Gujarat police officers involved in the staged encounter and even the joint police commissioner heading the crime branch then, P.P. Pandey, have for the record stated that it was the IB alert that a Lashkar-e-Toiba module was out to assassinate Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi that triggered the shooting.
With additional director general of police, P.P. Pandey yet to be questioned by the CBI, and now declared a proclaimed absconder after he failed to respond to summons, the CBI has held back on arraigning Rajendra Kumar as an accused though it has stated in the chargesheet that the killing was a Gujarat police-IB joint operation. Besides Kumar, it has named three other Intelligence Bureau officers M.K. Sinha, Rajiv Wankhede and P. Mittal for further investigation. Kumar, during CBI questioning, had said that though he shared information with the police about the possibility of Ishrat and the others being terrorists, he did not sanction the encounter.
The CBI is reported to be banking on the testimony from eyewitnesses and other evidence to later dwell on the role of the IB officer when it tackles the larger conspiracy in the supplementary chargesheet. The CBI lawyer I.S.Saiyed gave enough indications in an aside with mediapersons that a supplementary chargesheet was in the offing though he refused to give a timeframe for it.
The chargesheet seeks to establish a Crime Branch-Intelligence Bureau nexus when it states that under instructions from his superior officer Vanzara, Singhal had gone to the IB office on June 14 and collected a bag of weapons which subsequently found use in the staged encounter a day later.
The chargesheet also brings out that Kumar and Pandey interacted with Ishrat and Javed at Khodiar farm where they had been kept for some days before the encounter. It conclusively proves that Ishrat was abducted by N.K. Amin and Tarun Barot from near the Vasad toll booth on the Vadodara-Ahmedabad highway. The inter-action between the two top cops and Ishrat conclusively establishes that it was a staged encounter and that she was in the custody of the cops prior to her elimination along with three others Pranesh Pillai alias Javed Sheikh,Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar.
The CBI was handed the case in 2011. The Gujarat High Court, which is monitoring the investigation, had asked the agency to investigate whether the encounter was fake and not whether Ishrat and the others were indeed terrorists or not.
The chargesheet states that Ishrat and three others killed were kept in illegal confinement before the encounter and that there is evidence to prove that they were drugged before being killed and a major police deployment was enforced in Ahmedabad to cover up the encounter.
The chargesheet further states that under instructions from Gujarat IPS officer DG Vanzara , weapons were picked up from the Intelligence Bureau which were later planted on Ishrat and the others’ bodies after they were killed.