In a setback to the CBI investigation into the killing of 19-year-old Bhavnagar youth Sadiq Jamal Mehtar in an alleged fake encounter of 2003, a special CBI court on Tuesday discharged two accused policemen from the trial.
This is the first instance of policemen getting exonerated in this case that involves policemen from Mumbai and Gujarat along with officers of the Intelligence Bureau in Mumbai.
"This court finds that there is no sufficient ground for proceeding against present applicants. There is no ground for presuming that these applicants have committed an offence," the special CBI judge Bharat A Dave stated in the order pronounced on Tuesday.
The court found that "there is nothing to show that they have committed any overt act with knowledge or have tacitly consented to the object of detention and killing of Sadiq." This is also a case where the CBI argued that "Sadiq was not a terrorist but a victim". The court noted that "this is not the stage to decide this issue."
The order came on pleas filed separately by R L Mavani and Ajaypal Yadav. Yadav retired a few years back while Mavani is Deputy Superintendent of Police in Vyara, south Gujarat. He was a sub-inspector in 2003 when the encounter took place. They had moved the pleas through lawyer RS Verma.
On January 13, 2003, Sadiq was killed in an encounter near Jai Ambe Traders, Naroda in Ahmedabad by a team of policemen posted with Detection of Crime Branch, Ahmedabad. He was branded as a "terrorist" who had come to kill the then chief minister Narendra Modi, among other leaders, to avenge 2002 riots. Later in 2013, the CBI probe, carried out on the orders of Gujarat high court, found that he was killed by a team of eight policemen including J G Parmar, Tarun Barot, I A Saiyed, K M Vaghela, R L Mavani, G H Gohil, Ajaypal Yadav and Chhatarsinh Chudasama in a fake encounter. The CBI also stated that the investigation was on and it would file a supplementary charge sheet. However, nearly seven years on, the central agency is yet to wrap up its probe.
The CBI has claimed that Sadiq was first apprehended in a "stage-managed joint operation of SIB (Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau), Mumbai and CIU (Crime Intelligence Unit of Mumbai police), Andheri, Mumbai on November 19, 2002, from a place near Arsa Hotel, Andheri (E), Mumbai and he was subjected to interrogation at CIU, Andheri by the officials of SIB, Mumbai." Subsequently, he was brought to Ahmedabad by retired Deputy Superintendent of Police Tarun Barot, the then police inspector, Detection of Crime Branch days before the encounter.
The court granted relief to Mavani and Yadav while noting that "CBI has alleged that present applicants were involved in the whole process of conspiracy, kidnapping, detention and stage-managed encounter, but no such evidence is found on record." Earlier in 2017, the special court had rejected a similar plea moved by retired Deputy Superintendent of Police K M Vaghela.