Two former police officers and key accused in Ishrat Jahan encounter case-D G Vanzara and Narendra Amin- on Tuesday filed applications in the special CBI court, Ahmedabad pleading to drop proceeding against them in view of the fact that Gujarat government has denied sanction to CBI to prosecute them.
After filing of the pleas, the special CBI judge J K Pandya asked the CBI to respond by April 3.
On March 19, CBI had produced a letter written to it by the state government denying the permission to prosecute Vanzara and Amin. On that day itself, both the former officers wanted the court to drop the case against them but the court responded that they will have to file applications.
The state government refused sanction to prosecute the two accused officers under section 197 of the code of criminal procedure. The provision requires prior sanction for prosecuting government servants.
The state government has told CBI that it didn't give permission for "larger public interest". It said that "...from records placed by CBI, it transpires that the deceased Ishrat Jahan was member of Lashak-e- Toiba... Lahore-based Ghazwa Times, mouthpiece of Lashkar-e-Toiba, had claimed her as woman activist of the Lashakar-e-Toiba."
In the letter to CBI, state government wrote, "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 went on to say that the government examined the case in view of several judgments of Supreme Court that say, "public servant should not be exposed to criminal prosecution which are based on malicious foundation."
The state government has also criticised the CBI for the delay in filing the charge sheet. It has that the first arrest, in this case, was made on February 21, 2013, and therefore, "the agency was duty bound to file charge sheet before 20th May 2013 that is 90 days after the first arrest." But since the CBI didn't file charge sheet on time, several co-accused such as Inspector General of Police G L Singhal, ex-Deputy Superintendent of Police Tarun Barot among others were released on default bail.
The government's letter also mentions the case the Deputy Superintendent of Police Bharat Patel who was arrested by the CBI but was not charge-sheeted. The letter questions CBI and says, "case record doesn't provide explanation of the glaring diversion from standard practice of law."
One of the other grounds for not granting sanction for prosecution is that the investigation carried out by Gujarat High Court-appointed special investigation team or even by CBI could not prove the motive behind killing Ishrat and others. The state government also gave "clean chit" to Vanzara on the ground that he was not on the scene of offence.
In June 2004, apart from Ishrat Jahan and Javed Sheikh, two alleged Pakistani nationals-Zeeshan Johar and Amjadali Rana- were also killed in the outskirts of Ahmedabad. The police had branded them as Lashak-e-Toiba operatives who were on a mission to kill the then chief minister Narendra Modi.
The CBI probe established that these four were in the custody of accused Gujarat police and Intelligence Bureau officers prior to the alleged encounter. The CBI charge sheet claims that the four were killed in a stage-managed encounter.