Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case
|This article is outdated. (February 2014)|
The Ishrat Jahan encounter case is an ongoing criminal case in the Gujarat state of India, took place on 15 June 2004, and involved encounter killings of Ishrat Jahan Raza, a 19-year old girl from Mumbra, Maharashtra, and three men: Pranesh Pillai (alias Javed Gulam Sheikh), Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar who were alleged links to terrorists, by officers of the Ahmedabad Police Crime Branch.
The encounter was carried out allegedly by a team led by DIG D.G. Vanjara, who was later jailed for his alleged involvement in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter. The police alleged that Ishrat and her associates were Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives involved in a plot to assassinate the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi. Later, an investigation was launched into the allegations that Ishrat was killed in a fake encounter. After a long investigation, in 2009, an Ahmedabad Metropolitan court ruled that the encounter was staged. The decision was challenged by the Gujarat State government, and taken to the High Court. On 3 July 2013, the CBI has filed its first chargesheet in an Ahmedabad court saying that the shooting was a staged encounter carried out in cold blood.
Ishrat's family as well as several politicians and activists maintain that she was innocent. CBI declared the encounter as staged, but did not comment on whether Ishrat Jahan was an LeT associate or not. In 2004, a Lahore-based publication affiliated with LeT claimed that Ishrat and her companions were operatives, but in 2007, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the political wing of the LeT retracted the statement as a "journalistic mistake", offering apology to Ishrat's family. In 2010, some media outlets reported that the convicted terrorist David Headley had implicated Ishrat in terrorist activities in a statement given to the National Investigation Agency (NIA). However, the NIA called these reports as "baseless", and the CBI suspects that this input was fabricated by the IPS officer Rajendra Kumar, who is a suspect in the fake encounter case. After further investigation, in 2011, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) told the Gujarat High Court that the encounter was not genuine, and the victims were killed prior to the date of the staged encounter. In June 2013, the Intelligence Bureau chief Asif Ibrahim told the office of Prime Minister and Home Minister of India that the Bureau had enough evidence to prove that Ishrat was a part of an LeT module which planned to kill Narendra Modi and Lal Krishna Advani.
Ishrat Jahan Shamim Raza
Ishrat Jahan (1985 – 15 June 2004) was a second year Bachelor of Science student at Mumbai's Guru Nanak Khalsa College. She was the second of 7 siblings. Her lower-middle-class family, hailing from Bihar, lived in the Rashid compound in the Muslim-dominated area of Mumbra in Thane district in Maharashtra. Having lost her father Shamim two years before her own death, Ishrat taught tuition and did embroidery work to support her family. Ishrat's father Mohammad Shamim Raza was the proprietor of a Mumbai-based construction company called Asian Constructions while mother Shamima worked for a long time at a medicine packaging company in Vashi.
Pranesh Pillai (alias Javed Gulam Sheikh)
Pranesh had migrated to Mumbai in search of a job. Before his death, he had been booked for four assault cases in Mumbai and Pune, and had also been charged with involvement in a fake currency racket. In the mid-1990s, he converted to Islam and changed his name to Javed Sheikh to marry a Muslim woman called Sajida. Gujarat Police recovered two passports from Javed: one obtained using his original name Pranesh and the second one in his new name.
Amjad Ali Rana
Amjad Ali Rana, also known as Akbar or Salim, was originally a resident of the Haveli Deewan village in the Bhalwal Tehsil of Pakistan. According to the CBI chargesheet, he told the Gujarat Police that he was planning to commit a terrorist act in Ahmedabad. The CBI also stated that he was abudcted by the Gujarat Police and IB officials from Gota on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. He was found dead with an AK-56 rifle near his body, which according to CBI, was planted by the police officials. Amjad is believed to have met Javed several times in Oman, and also Javed and Ishrat in Ibrahimpur once. Amjad introduced Ishrat and Javed to Zeeshan, the fourth victim.
Zeeshan (alias Jisan Johar alias Abdul Ghani Son of Kalu alias Janbaaz), along with Amjad, is said to have been caught in a trespassing case in Srinagar in 2003. Nobody claimed the bodies of Amjad and Zeeshan after the encounter. An identity card with a Pakistan address was reportedly recovered from Zeeshan's body. However, a later report by the metropolitan magistrate SP Tamang stated that identity cards were forged by the police and the two men were Indian citizens, although it did not give any evidence on this.
Ishrat had left her house on 11 June 2004, four days before she was killed. According to Ishrat's brother, their mother Shameema did not like her going out of town with Javed. Therefore, she did not inform her when she left for Nashik. Ishrat made a phone call to her mother on 11 June spoke with her mother. According to her mother, Ishrat called her from a public phone booth outside a Nashik bus stop, and told her that "Uncle Javed Sheikh hasn’t come yet." A few minutes later, Ishrat made a second call and told her mother in a terrified voice that Javed had come but with some "strange men", and then hung abruptly. She reportedly made another phone call on 12 June, informing her family that she had met Javed.
On 15 June 2004, the Gujarat police stated that Ishrat, along with three other people, had been gunned down near Ahmedabad by a police team belonging to the Detection of Crime Branch (DCB) of the Ahmedabad City Police. The four were allegedly killed after the police chased their blue Tata Indica car. It is not clear how the four wound up in Gujarat from Maharashtra.
The police claimed that all four were connected with the Pakistan-based terror group LeT and were in Gujarat to assassinate Narendra Modi, in order to avenge the communal riots of 2002 which had led to the deaths of numerous Muslims. The police team was led by then Deputy Commissioner of Police Dhananjay G. Vanzara, who was later jailed for involvement in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter killing.
A probe into the encounter was ordered after Ishrat's family insisted that she was innocent, and the Mumbai police said she had no criminal background, and their investigation did not find anything that could implicate her. A number of politicians and the Maharashtra State Minorities Commission demanded an inquiry. Ishrat's funeral procession was attended by over 10,000 people in Mumbra and the Samajwadi Party state president Abu Azmi said that he would demand a CBI probe into the killings.
In 2004, a news report published in Lahore-based Ghazwa Times (considered to be a mouthpiece of the LeT) claimed that Ishrat was its operative, and was with her "husband" at the time of her death. Ghazwa claimed on its website that "veil of Ishrat Jahan, a woman LeT operative, was removed by Gujarat police and her body kept with other mujahideens".
The Gujarat government had faced strong criticism by human rights groups for anti-Muslim human rights violations, following the communal riots of 2002. During this period, there had been several police encounter deaths in the Gujarat, three of which have been attributed to attempts to kill Narendra Modi in retaliation for the alleged involvement of the state machinery in the riots. Some human rights activists have alleged that many of these alleged encounters actually happen in police custody. They claimed that there is a pattern that many of these encounters followed: they always took place in the wee hours of the morning in a deserted area, with no witnesses; a vigorous exchange of fire resulted in the deaths of all the terrorists, while the police received no injuries; and the diary of the accused was often recovered, and contained incriminating evidence. In 2007, several of the policemen held responsible for the death of Ishrat faced trial in connection with the 2005 fake encounter of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife. The police officer D.G. Vanzara, who led the encounter was later jailed for his involvement in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter. This resulted in an investigation into the encounter involving Ishrat.
In Ishrat's case, the Gujarat police claimed to have received information on the assassination plot from the Mumbai police. The Mumbai police however denied there was any such information. According to People's Union for Civil Liberties, the Gujarat police did not follow normal procedures in their investigations. No FIR was lodged with the local area police station where the encounter occurred,no charge sheet, no inquest report, and no witness statement. No bullet marks or damage was observed on the road or surrounding area.
S P Tamang report
The report by the Metropolitan Magistrate S P Tamang submitted in the metropolitan court Ahmedabad on 7 September 2009 said the four persons were killed in police custody. It implicated a number of top police officials for the deaths, which were allegedly staged in order to win promotions and rewards.
The Ahmedabad Metropolitan court ruled that the killing of Ishrat Jehan was a fake encounter, and Ishrat's family stated that she was not connected with LeT at all. A petition led the high court to constitute a police team, headed by Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) Pramod Kumar to look into the incident.
In the 243-page report, Tamang named the "encounter specialist" of the Gujarat police, the then head of the DCB, D.G. Vanzara, among others, as the accused in the "cold-blooded murder" of Ishrat and three others.
Tamang's report said the Crime Branch police kidnapped Ishrat and the others from Mumbai on 12 June 2004 and brought them to Ahmedabad. The four were killed on the night of 14 June in police custody, but the police claimed that an "encounter" took place the next morning on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. Rigor mortis had set in between 11 pm and midnight the previous night, indicating that the police had later shot bullets into Ishrat's body to substantiate the encounter theory.
Tamang said there was no evidence to link the victims with the LeT. There was also nothing to indicate that they had come to Gujarat to kill Modi. The report said explosives, rifles and other weapons allegedly found in the car, and the weapons found on their person were all planted by the police.
Claiming that the police officers were motivated by their personal interests in getting promotions and appreciation from the Chief Minister, Tamang included a list of top police officers, whom he held responsible. It includes Vanzara and his then deputy Narendra K. Amin, both of whom were already arrested in the Sohrabuddin encounter killing case. The list also included K.R. Kaushik, who was then the Ahmedabad Police Commissioner, P.P. Pandey, who was then the chief of the Crime Branch, and another alleged encounter specialist Tarun Barot.
The Gujarat High Court stayed the Tamang report on 9 September 2009 but gave liberty to Ishrat's mother to produce the report before the three-member committee constituted by the High Court to investigate the encounter. Justice Kalpesh Javheri said the observations made in the report were beyond the jurisdiction of the judicial magistrate. The Division Bench directed the Registrar-General of the High Court to institute a departmental inquiry into the conduct of Mr. Tamang in holding a parallel inquiry into the encounter, when the High Court was already seized of the matter, and submitting the report without its permission.
The Gujarat State Government challenged the report of the metropolitan magistrate, saying that the policemen accused of fake encounter were not given an opportunity to present their side of the arguments. Gujarat government’s petition in the High Court against the Tamang report said it should be scrapped as it was “illegal and doubtful.” The case was thus taken to the Gujarat High Court. The Gujarat high court stated that Ishrat Jahan encounter case was of national importance, and ordered the police witnesses to be placed where they would not be working as subordinates to officials accused in the case.
In July 2010, some media outlets reported that the LeT terrorist David Headley involved in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks had named Ishrat as a member of LeT. However, in a letter to the Gujarat High Court, the NIA clarified that these media reports were false and David Headly did not speak about Ishrat Jahan. IB has alleged that the original NIA report did have excerpts detailing Headley's account about Ishrat's links with LeT: these two paragraphs were later deleted.
The Gujarat High Court in August 2010 held that the motive described by magistrate SP Tamang in his inquiry report on the Ishrat Jahan encounter case cannot be accepted and also raised doubts on the magistrate's conclusion about the time of death of the four.
A Special Investigation Team (SIT), headed by Karnail Singh, was set up to probe the case further. The SIT sent four teams to Srinagar, Delhi, Lucknow and Nashik to probe Ishrat's alleged terrorist links. The team's forensic and ballistic experts, reconstructed the events of the encounter. Sri Karnail Singh appointed a team headed by Professor T D Dogra and Dr. Rajinder Singh, Director CFSL Delhi to help reconstruction of scene of occurrence.
On 21 November 2011, the SIT told the Gujarat High Court that the Ishrat Jahan encounter was not genuine. After the SIT filed its report, the High Court ordered that a complaint under Indian Penal Code Section 302 (murder) has to be filed against those involved in the fake encounter, in which over 20 policemen, including senior IPS officers, were involved. The CBI began investigations in the case with the help of Gujarat IPS officer Satish Verma. The CBI in their investigations for the first time tightened it's noose against a top cop in any encounter case, PP Pandey. PP Pandey had plotted Ishrat's encounter with the Central IB official Rajendra Kumar
After dithering for over an year, on 21 February 2013 CBI arrested Gujarat IPS officer G L Singhal who was then Assistant Commissioner of Police Crime Branch at the time of the incident, in connection with the alleged fake encounter. The CBI in its FIR alleged that Singhal, now Superintendent of Police at State Crime Records Bureau played an active role in the encounter which was later found to be fake by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted by the Gujarat High Court. Besides Singhal, CBI had previously arrested senior police officers, Tarun Barot, J G Parmar, N K Amin, Bharat Patel and Anaju Chaudhary. Though when, even after the mandatory 90 days CBI didn't file their chargesheet in the case, all the accused were released on bail, except Amin. A CBI court, issued an arrest warrant for another accused Additional DGP (Crime) P P Pandey, who is absconding, though he has filed an appeal in the Supreme Court to get the FIR cancelled.
On 4 June, suspended IPS officer D G Vanzara was arrested by the CBI, from Sabarmati Central Jail in Ahmedabad, after he was transferred a day ago from a Mumbai Jail since 2007, where he was lodged as he is an accused in Sohrabuddin Shaikh encounter killing case of 2005 as well as Tulsi Prajapati encounter killing case. CBI alleged that he led the team of Detection of Crime Branch (DCB), Ahmedabad, on whose tip off the Ahmedabad Police went ahead with the encounter, and wanted to interrogate him further. The following day, an Ahmedabad court remanded Vanzara to CBI custody till 10 June.
The CBI has also expressed desire to arrest Rajendra Kumar, but Intelligence Bureau chief Asif Ibrahim has opposed it on many occasions, drawing the ire of CBI.
In June 2013, India Today reported that Asif Ibrahim, the chief of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), had told the Prime Minister's Office and the Home Minister that the IB had "enough evidence" to prove that Ishrat Jahan belonged to an LeT module which planned to kill Narendra Modi and Lal Krishna Advani. India Today reported Ibrahim as telling the Government that David Coleman Headley had revealed this in his interrogation by the FBI. The United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigations had told the Ministry of Home Affairs about Headley’s claims on a "female suicide bomber named Ishrat Jahaan.". In a note on 13 October 2010, the NIA had said that Headley had told them Ishrat Jehan had been part of a "botched" operation run by the terrorist group.
Headlines Today report
On 13 June 2013 Headlines Today, an English news channel and subsidiary of India Today group, revealed that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani were among the leaders who were on the hit-list of the alleged terrorists killed in an encounter with Gujarat Police in Ahmedabad on 15 June 2004. It also claimed that Ishrat Jahan was among the terrorists assigned to execute the plot. It released unsubstantiated audio tapes of the conversation of allegedly a LET commander and Javed Sheikh,a man killed in the encounter. The news channel also produced the letter of IB chief to CBI director, in which he said that David Headley also revealed that Ishrat Jahan was an LeT operative. However, Headley's confession to the FBI had already been dismissed as hearsay by the NIA
On 14 June, the leaked tapes were produced as evidence before the Gujarat High Court by the counsel for the Gujarat Government, Tushar Mehta. However, the bench refused to consider them as evidence, asking Mehta to take them to CBI for investigation.
A group of social activists alleged that the IB was selectively leaking uncorroborated tapes to the media in order to scuttle the CBI probe just 24 hours ahead of the scheduled hearing of the case in the Gujarat High Court. They also criticized the media for airing the telephone calls without any forensic tests or voice tests.
In June 2013, the Tehelka magazine published an exposé that revealed that the CBI has in its possession an audio recording of a conversation between Gujarat's former Minister of State Praful Patel, senior IAS officer G C Murmu, and other top officials in a meeting called to chalk out a plan to safeguard the interests of the officers whose names could crop up in the investigation. The conversation was secretly recorded by a meeting attendee, Girish Laxman Singhal, one of the two accused police officers who have been arrested by the CBI in the case.
Resignation of Vanzara
On September 1, Senior Gujarat Police Officer D G Vanzara resigned from IPS, blaming lack of interest shown by State Government in rescuing him and other Police officers jailed in Fake encounter cases. He sent his resignation from Sabarmati Jail, where he is currently lodged.
2014 CBI report
The CBI Chargesheet
A selection of the chargesheet detailing the differences of CBI investigations with that of IB is given below.
- The Investigation revealed that in the last week of April 2004, Jishan Johar (deceased) on his arrival at Ahmedabad was taken into illegal custody by a joint team of accused Gujarat Police officers and SIB officers of Ahmedabad consisting of GL Singhal, Rajinder Kumar. Thereafter Jishan Johar was confined at house no. 164/165 in Gota Housing, near Vaishno Devi Crossing, off SG Highway, Ahmedabad and was put under audio-tap by Rajeev Wankhede, MK Sinha, and T Mittal the SIB officers and the surveillance was maintained by CJ Goswami PSI, PG Waghela PSI, Hanubha Narsinh Dodiya HC and Zahir Ahmed PC.
- Investigation revealed that on 26 May 2004, a team of DCB, Ahmedabad City, composed of accused NK Amin, Tarun Barot and IK Chauhan with the assistance of Shri MK Sinha and Rajeev Wankhede, ACIOs of SIB, Ahmedabad abducted the deceased Amjadali from Gota Crossing on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. Investigation revealed that the above team of accused officers after abducting the deceased Amjadali, confined him in illegal custody at Arham Farm House from 26 May to early morning 15 June.
- Investigation revealed that on 12 June 2004, accused N.K.Amin and Tarun Barot with the assistance of M.K.Sinha and Rajeev Wankhede, ACIOs of SIB, Ahmedabad, abducted Javed and Ishrat Jahan from Vasad Toll booth, District Anand, Gujarat, when they were travelling in the blue Indica car bearing registration no. MH 02 JA 4786. The above accused police officers and SIB officers took Javed and Ishrat Jahan to Khodiyar Farm, off SG Highway, Ahmedabad, and kept them in Illegal custody...
- Shri DG Vanzara, Shri PP Pandey, Shri Rajinder Kumar and Dr NK Amin had met Javed and Ishrat Jahan during their illegal custody on different days and times. On 13 June 2004, Jishan Johar was shifted from Gota Housing confinement to Khodiyar Farm house by Shri Tarun Barot.
- That in the evening of 13 June 2004, Shri DG Vanzara, Shri PP Pandey and Shri Rajinder Kumar had discussed in the Bungalow No. 15, Duffnala, Shahibaug office chamber of Shri DG Vanzara about the further plan about elimination of the four detainees i.e. Jishan Johar, Amjadali, Javed and Ishrat and lodging a FIR showing their death in an encounter.
- That on 14 June 2004, Shri GL Singhal had gone to the office of the SIB as per instructions of Shri DG Vanzara, and had collected weapons in a bag from SIB Office Ahmedabad. He had sent this bag through Shri Nizamuddin Burhanmiyan to Shri Tarun A Barot, who was at Khodiyar Farm...
- The investigation revealed that, following accused officers had fired on the four deceased from their service weapons as detailed hereunder:
- » NK Amin fired 5 rounds from his 9mm pistol;
- » JG Parmar fired 4 rounds from his revolver;
- » Tarun Barot fired 6 rounds from his revolver and 3 rounds from the revolver of IK Chauhan;
- » Mohan Kalaswa fired 32 rounds from his AK-47 and 10 rounds from the AK47 of Commando Mohan Nanji; and
- » Anaju Jiman Chaudhary fired 10 rounds from his Stengun.
- The investigation revealed that the above firing had taken place in two successive stages. It is revealed that in the first round of firing, Sh. Tarun Barot and Mohan Kalaswa exhausted their ammunition and stopped firing. Thereafter for the second round of firing, they forcibly took away the weapons of IK Chauhan and Mohan Nanji respectively and Sh. Barot fired 3 rounds from the weapon of IK Chauhan while Mohan Kalasawa fired another 10 rounds from the weapon of Mohan Nanji Menat. Further Commando Mohan Kalasawa was made to fire several rounds from AK 56 rifle (planted on the Amjadali Rana), on the official Gypsy vehicle of Dr NK Amin. This AK 56 rifle was brought to the scene by Shri Tarun Barot. After firing from this weapon, it was placed near the dead body of Amjadali...
- That the investigation conducted so far disclosed that the above said fake encounter was a result of Joint operation of Gujarat Police and SIB, Amedabad. In this operation the overt acts committed by the accused Gujarat Police officers have been established by the evidence on record. However, further investigation is in progress against the SIB officers namely Rajinder Kumar, MK Sinha, Rajeev Wankhede, T Mittal, and others.
- Therefore in view of the above facts and circumstances, the Investigating Agency CBI seeks permission of the Honorable Court to continue investigation against the SIB officers named above and others.
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