Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) of Maharashtra Satyapal Singh, who was recently appointed by the Gujarat high court as chairman of the Special Investigating Team probing the encounter death of Ishrat Jahan, has expressed his inability to continue in the post.
Singh, an Indian Police Service officer from Maharashtra cadre, on Friday submitted a letter before the Gujarat high court mainly citing three reasons including that of language barrier.
Singh told the court that since he does not understand Gujarati, he will not be able to question the witnesses and comprehend the issue effectively.
Further, Singh informed the court that one of the accused officers under scanner is PP Pande who is a batch-mate, and hence he wishes to be excused from the probe.
Singh also brought to the court’s notice that there is a rift between the other two SIT members: Joint Commissioner Mihan Jha and Inspector General of Police Satish Verma.
The judges, Justice Jayant Patel and Justice Abhilasha Kumari, have now directed the Union government to file a reply on Satyapal Singh’s application. The court has also asked the Union government to inform if they would like to replace Satyapal Singh in the probe. In the event that they decide to replace Singh, the Union government should also give the court fresh recommendations for the appointment of a new chairman.
Meanwhile, the court chided Satyapal Singh on the reasoning in his application for excusing him from the probe. The court orally observed that, “Language barrier is hardly a reason to be relieved from the probe since you are a central government employee.”
The high court has now set July 15 as the next date of hearing in the issue.
Ishrat, 19, a Mumbai-based college girl, was killed in an encounter, along with Javed Ghulam Sheikh alias Pranesh Kumar Pillai, Amjad Ali alias Rajkumar Akbar Ali Rana and Jisan Johar Abdul Gani, carried out by crime branch officials near Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004.
The Gujarat police, at that time, had claimed that Ishrat and the three others were operatives of Pakistan-based terror outfit Lashkar-e-Tayiba and were on a mission to kill Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
According to the police, the encounter was carried out based on specific inputs from the central intelligence agencies that the LeT was planning to carry out attacks in various parts of India, including Gujarat.
However, last year, a report by judicial magistrate S P Tamang had said the gunbattle was ‘fake and carried out in cold blood.’
The Gujarat high court had earlier formed an SIT comprising IPS officers Pramod Kumar, Mohan Jha and J K Bhatt. But it was later dissolved after the Supreme Court asked the high court to look into the petitions regarding Ishrat afresh.