Justifying its decision to reinstate senior Gujarat Police officer G L Singhal, 48, who was suspended when he was arrested in February 2013 for his alleged role in the killing of Ishrat Jahan, the state government said the officer is out on bail and, therefore, cannot be kept permanently under suspension.
June 15 will mark 10 years since 19-year-old Khalsa college girl Ishrat Jahan, her associate Pranesh Pillai alias Javed Shaikh, and Pakistani nationals Jishan Johar and Amjad Ali Akbar Ali Rana, were killed in a fake police encounter on Ahmedabad’s outskirts.The four were branded Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) fidayeen assigned to kill the then chief minister Narendra Modi.
A close scrutiny of the CBI’s charges against him shows that Singhal is accused of being complicit at every stage of the alleged plot to kill them — right from the abduction of the victims, their confinement, planning their murder, their execution and planting of weapons.
Singhal is also the police officer in “Snoopgate”, purportedly on tape speaking with Amit Shah, the then Gujarat MoS Home, on keeping tabs on a young woman. These tapes were believed to be part of the 267 voice recordings submitted by Singhal to the CBI as evidence.
In March 2013, Singhal sent a resignation letter to the government, saying he felt “the government had failed to protect him from victimisation”, which was invalidated since he was already deemed suspended.
Investigating Officer of the Ishrat case Parixita Gurjar, ACP, Mahila Police Station, Crime Branch, Ahmedabad, filed a final report against nine people before the Special Judge, POTA Cases, Ahmedabad, on June 8, 2006. The judge didn’t accept the IO’s report, and ordered further investigation.
The CBI FIR in the Ishrat case came after the Special Investigation Team set up by the Gujarat High Court concluded that the encounter — on June 15, 2004 — conducted by Gujarat Police was stage-managed. The CBI’s FIR on December 16, 2011, named Singhal, the then Assistant Commissioner Police, Crime Branch, Ahmedabad, as among the officials involved.
These are the key findings of the CBI investigation, as per the chargesheet filed on July 3, 2013, and court records accessed by The Indian Express, that directly refer to Singhal’s alleged role:
-Singhal helped in “managing the illegal custody” of the deceased Jishan Johar in end April 2004 in a house in Gota Housing near Vaishno Devi Crossing, Ahmedabad.
-Singhal’s colleagues N K Amin, Tarun Barot and I K Chauhan, helped by M K Sinha and Rajeev Wankhede of the Intelligence Bureau, abducted deceased Amjad Ali from Gota Crossing on the outskirts of Ahmedabad and “confined him in illegal custody” at Arham Farm House from May 25, 2004 to June 15, 2004 (the day of the encounter).
-Three days before the killing, Javed and Ishrat Jahan were abducted from Vasad toll booth, Anand, and taken to Khodiyar Farm off SG Highway, Ahmedabad, and kept in illegal custody. On June 13, 2004, Jishan Johar “was shifted from his Gota Housing “confinement” to Khodiyar Farm.
-The day before the encounter, Singhal went to the SIB (Intelligence Bureau), Ahmedabad, and collected weapons in a bag. He sent this bag through Nizamuddin Burhanmiyan, a Gujarat Police official, to Tarun A Barot who was at Khodiyar Farm.
-On June 14, 2004, around 3 pm, Singhal was called by D G Vanzara, then DCP (Crime Branch), to the Bungalow No. 15, Duffnala, Shahibaug, office. D H Goswami, Police Inspector, was also present. Vanzara had drafted a complaint in which some contents (names, number of rounds etc.) were blank. It was pertaining to the story of the encounter which was later registered as the FIR.
-Around 11 pm (on June 14, 2004), Vanzara convened a meeting at the same bungalow with accused Crime Branch officers, including Singhal. It was decided at this meeting that the gunmen of Vanzara and P P Pandey (the then Joint Commissioner (Crime) who had become Additional Director General of Police by the time he was arrested last year) — namely Mohanbhai Nanjibhai Menat and Mohanbhai Lalabhai Kalaswa — would be used to carry out the operation. Accordingly, these police officers reported to Singhal at Indira Bridge Circle around 1.30 am on June 15, 2004.
-On June 15, 2004, Singhal along with Tarun Barot, Mohan Bhai, Lala Bhai Kalaswa (gunmen of D G Vanzara), Anaju Jiman Chaudhry (Commando), I K Chauhan, and N Nizammuddin reached the scene of crime about 4 am. As instructed by Singhal, Amjad Ali was also brought to the scene of the crime.
-The CBI details how, on Singhal’s instructions, Amjad was made to stand at the road divider. Ishrat, Javed and Jishan were brought in the blue Indica driven by two constables of the Crime Branch, where Amin was present with his team at the scene of crime. Amin parked the car at the road divider, and Javed was shifted to the driver’s seat. Amin and his squad, and Barot who was in Singhal’s squad, fired 70 rounds at the four detainees. The fake encounter got over at 5 am after which the weapons were planted near Amjad, and yellow powder was kept in the car to show it as an explosive.
-Commando Mohan was made to fire several rounds from an AK-56 rifle, which was later planted on Amjad Ali Rana. This AK-56 was brought to the scene by Barot, who had received it in a bag from G L Singhal.
Pandey, Vanzara, Amin, Singhal, Parmar, Barot and Anaju Jhiman Chaudhry, all senior officers of the Gujarat Police, the CBI said, had committed “offences of murder, abducting to murder, wrongful confinement, criminal conspiracy, causing disappearance of evidence or giving false information, destruction of evidence.”