The Supreme Court Monday told the Gujarat government to cut short the extension granted to Director General of Police P P Pandey and immediately release him from office. Pandey is out on bail in the 2004 case of the killing of Ishrat Jahan in an alleged fake encounter. A bench led by Chief Justice of India J S Khehar turned down a request by Gujarat to consider letting Pandey continue until April 30, observing that the state government should let him go immediately in view of his offer to step down if required.
The officer had been behind bars for 16 months in the alleged fake encounter case before being released on bail in February 2015. Pandey was appointed DGP in-charge of Gujarat in April 2016. The Centre’s Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) had granted a three-month extension to Pandey, who was to retire on January 31. On Monday, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the state government, adduced a letter before the bench wherein Pandey had expressed his willingness to step down forthwith if the authorities so desired.
Citing this letter, Mehta said that although the officer had himself offered to step down immediately, the court could consider allowing him to remain on the post until April 30, given the fact that Pandey had served the force for three decades and that there was a political vendetta against him. But the bench questioned the government why it wanted to continue with the officer when he himself was ready to abdicate his position “forthwith”. Mehta sought to convince the court that there would be no further extension for Pandey after April 30 but the bench remained firm that he should be relieved immediately.
Mehta eventually agreed that the state government would accept Pandey’s proposal to relinquish him without further delay by scrapping the notification allowing him extension until April 30. “The ASG informs the Gujarat government has immediately accepted the offer made by Pandey… in view of determination of the state government, we are of the view that the main petition has been rendered infructuous,” the court said in its order.
The order came on a petition filed by former Mumbai Police Commissioner Julio F Ribeiro who had challenged Pandey’s appointment and extension as DGP and IGP despite his alleged involvement in the Ishrat Jahan killing case. Last Friday, the Gujarat government had sought four weeks to file its reply affidavit to Ribeiro’s plea but this was opposed by senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, who represented Ribeiro. Sibal contended that it was “shocking” that Pandey, who was an accused in a serious case and was granted bail after prolonged incarceration, was reinstated by the state and then promoted and rewarded. He pointed out that the ploy behind seeking four weeks was to make sure that Pandey complete his extended tenure. The court had then shot down the state government’s request for four weeks and sought a response by April 3.
Pandey was heading the state crime branch when Ishrat, a 19-year-old girl from Mumbra near Mumbai, Javed Shaikh, Amjadali Akbarali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were killed in an alleged encounter with the police on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004. Gujarat police had claimed they had terror links and had plotted to kill the then Chief Minister, Narendra Modi.
An SIT constituted by the Gujarat High Court to investigate the case had concluded that it was a fake encounter, following which the investigation was transferred to the CBI. Pandey was arrested in August 2013 for allegedly conspiring with other accused officers to carry out the encounter of Ishrat Jahan and others. He was released on bail in February 2015, and was immediately taken back into service and appointed the Director of the state’s Anti Corruption Bureau.