Denying sanction for prosecuting ex-IPS officer D G Vanzara and advocating for his protection in "larger public interest," the Gujarat government in its letter to the CBI has claimed that Ishrat Jahan was a "Lashkar-e-Toiba operative."
The probe agency on Tuesday submitted the Gujarat government's letter to a special CBI court on Tuesday. "FIR doesn't directly link her to any terrorist organisation...the fact that she was having an idea of illegal activities of the third male deceased has not been ruled out," the letter stated.
The letter, accessed by this paper, says that "the possibility of a third male not being a terrorist has not been ruled out." The third male, according to sources, is Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai, a friend of Ishrat.
In June 2004, apart from Ishrat and Javed, two alleged Pakistani nationals, Zeeshan Johar and Amjadali Rana, were also killed in the outskirts of Ahmedabad. The police had branded them as Lashkar-e-Toiba operatives who were on a mission to kill the then chief minister Narendra Modi.
When the question of alleged terror links of the encounter victims was brought before the Gujarat High Court, which ordered a probe into the killing, the court had made it clear that "investigation should be done to find out whether it was a fake encounter or not."
The CBI probe established that the four were in the custody of the Gujarat Police and Intelligence Bureau officers prior to the alleged encounter. The CBI charge sheet claims that they were killed in a stage-managed encounter in cold blood.
However, the state home department said, "...from records placed by the CBI, it transpires that the deceased Ishrat Jahan was a member of Lashkar-e-Toiba... Lahore-based Ghazwa Times, a mouthpiece of Lashkar-e-Toiba, had claimed her as a woman activist of the Lashkar-e-Toiba."
The Gujarat government wrote this letter to the CBI after the central probe agency sought sanction to prosecute Vanzara and former Superintendent of Police Narendra K Amin. The CBI moved the state government following the order of a special court which had directed it to clear its stand whether the probe agency wants to seek sanction or not.
The central agency had sought similar permission to prosecute four accused officers from the Intelligence Bureau, which was not granted by the Ministry of Home Affairs, New Delhi, but it didn't follow the same procedure in the case of accused Gujarat police officers.
In the letter, the state government has written, "Government of Gujarat is satisfied that Vanzara should be protected against malicious and vexatious prosecution in this case and the said protection is made extendable to him in the larger public interest."
The letter goes on to say the home department examined the case in view of several judgments of the Supreme Court that say, "public servant should not be exposed to criminal prosecution which are based on malicious foundation."
The state government has criticised the CBI for the delay in filing the charge sheet. It said that the first arrest, in this case, was made on February 21, 2013, and therefore, "the agency was duty bound to file a charge sheet before May 20, 2013, that is 90 days after the first arrest."
But since the CBI didn't file charge sheet on time, several co-accused, including Inspector General of Police G L Singhal, ex-Deputy Superintendent of Police Tarun Barot, were released on default bail.
The government's letter also mentions the case of Deputy Superintendent of Police Bharat Patel who was arrested by the CBI but was not charge-sheeted. The letter questions the CBI and says, "case record doesn't provide an explanation of the glaring diversion from the standard practice of law."
One of the other logic for not granting sanction for prosecution is that the investigation by the Gujarat HC-monitored probe by the special investigation team or by the CBI, the motive for killing Ishrat and others were not established.
The state government also gave a "clean chit" to Vanzara on the ground that he was not on the scene of offence. However, the CBI investigation has revealed that Amin was on the scene of offence and had fired five rounds on victims from his pistol.
'Drop the case'
After the state government's decision was announced in the court, lawyer V D Gajjar, appearing for Vanzara and Amin, requested the court to drop the case.
The court asked them to file an application and only after a proper hearing, it will be decided. They are likely to file pleas on March 26.