Nine years after Ishrat Jahan and three others were killed, the CBI on Wednesday charge sheeted seven Gujarat police officers in the case, terming the encounter as "fake" and in "cold blood", in what could spell more trouble for the Narendra Modi government.
Filing its first charge sheet in the case, the CBI described the encounter as a "joint operation" by Gujarat Police and the Intelligence Bureau, and said the role of its Special Director Rajinder Kumar and three other officers was still being probed.
Kumar, posted as Joint Director of the Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau in Gujarat at the time of the encounter, was said to have generated intelligence about terrorists of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba having sneaked into Gujarat to assassinate Modi.
The charge sheet is, however, silent on whether the four killed were terrorists. Those against whom the charge sheet was filed for murder and criminal conspiracy include absconding Additional DGP P P Pandey and suspended DIG D G Vanzara.
"The encounter was a joint operation between Gujarat police and Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau (SIB) of the state," CBI said in the charge sheet, adding, "the encounter was fake and in cold blood".
The CBI told the court of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate H S Khutwad that their investigation has established offence against all seven police officers charge sheeted in the case. Besides Kumar, the investigation is going on against three other IB officers-- P Mittal, M K Sinha and Rajiv Wankhede, it said.
A supplementary charge sheet would be filed once the investigation was over, the court was told. Apart from Pandey and Vanzara other Gujarat police officers who have been charge-sheeted are G L Singhal, Tarun Barot, N K Amin, J G Parmar and Anaju Chaudhary.
Ishrat, hailing from Mumbra in Thane district adjoining Mumbai, Javed Shaikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjadali Akbarali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were killed in the alleged encounter with the Gujarat police on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004.
Apart from Pandey and Vanzara, the other Gujarat police officers who have been charge-sheeted are G L Singhal, Tarun Barot, N K Amin, J G Parmar and Anaju Chaudhary.
Dubbed as terrorists with Lashkar-e-Toiba elements, Ishrat, hailing from Mumbra in Thane district adjoining Mumbai, Javed Shaikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjadali Akbarali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were killed in the encounter with the Gujarat police on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004.
The conspiracy, the charge sheet says, was hatched by Additional DGP Pandey, DIG Vanzara and Rajinder Kumar, who was then posted as Joint Director of the SIB in Gujarat.
It says that crime branch officer Amin and Barot had taken Ishrat and Javed Sheikh into their custody on June 12 from a toll booth at Vasad in Anand district with the help of M K Sinha and Rajiv Wankhede of the IB.
The document says that the four killed in the encounter were in prior custody of Gujarat police and, in fact, Ishrat and Javed were interrogated by Rajinder Kumar at a farm house on the city outskirts where they were kept in confinement. "On June 13, 2003 Vanzara, Pandey, Kumar and Amin had gone to the farm house and interrogated Ishrat and Javed," the charge sheet said.
The other two were also brought to Ahmedabad before the encounter was staged and were kept at separate locations, it said. All the four were taken to a place near Kotarpur waterworks, the encounter spot, on the outskirts of the city on June 15, 2003 and were killed in cold blood, the charge sheet said.
Police officers Amin, Barot, Anaju and Mohan Kalashwa, the police commando guarding Vanzara, made them stand near the road divider and fired on them, the charge sheet said. Kalashwa has since died and has not been named in the document.
It also said that the weapons including AK-47 rifles found from the encounter spot and claimed to be of those shot in the encounter, were procured by Gujarat police officer Singhal from SIB. The CBI also said they found no evidence that the four had come to Gujarat to kill Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
"During our investigation so far nothing was found which suggests that three men and Ishrat came to kill the Chief Minister," it said.