THE Supreme Court today gave a fresh boost to a committee set up by the Narendra Modi government to monitor investigation into fake encounters by the Gujarat Police,giving it blanket authority to select investigators,if necessary from outside the state,to thoroughly look into and reveal the truth behind 22 shootout deaths between 2002 and 2006.
In April 2011,the Gujarat government had set up a Special Task Force as well as a monitoring authority under Justice M B Shah,a former Supreme Court judge,following allegations that the local police was deliberately letting the trail go cold.
Noting that there has hardly been any results from the investigations conducted so far,a Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and C K Prasad gave Justice M B Shah Committee with ample powers to select men for the Special Task Force investigating team,hear the victims or their representatives,call for records from both the local police as well as the human rights commission and also grant interim or final relief with regard to compensation awards to the victims.
The Bench has asked the monitoring authority to submit a report on its findings in three months.
The order,passed after a brief hearing,was based on two separate petitions,one by eminent journalist B G Verghese and another by lyricist Javed Akhtar and social activist Shabnam Hashmi,seeking an independent and fair probe into a total of 22 killings by the state police between 2003 and 2006.
Prayers are made for independent investigations by CBI/ SIT alleging fake encounters and cover up into killings in cold blood. The matter has been pending for years without any substantive orders passed… the monitoring authority should look into all these cases (a total of 22 between 2002 and 2006) thoroughly so that the truth is revealed, the Bench observed in the written order.
The 22 cases will,however,not include those already under investigation by the CBI or SIT as per Supreme Court or High Court orders,the court said on Wednesday. This means the Sohrabuddin-Kauser Bi,Tulsiram Prajapati and Ishrat Jahan cases are outside the purview of the order.
In his petition filed in 2007 in the Supreme Court,Verghese raised suspicions about 21 encounter deaths between 2003 and 2006. He produced on record before the court the very list that the Gujarat government had furnished to the State Legislative Assembly on the details of the encounters.
The list,he alleged,showed that the encounter killings span a range of persons that includes workmen who have come in from outside the state to suspected terrorists. The ages of those killed are in the range between 22 and 37. It is not clear if the families of those killed are even aware of the fate of these young persons.
There is a need to investigate this pattern and there must be a system in place to ensure that armed personnel do not easily do away with lives of citizens, he submitted.
Akhtar in his written submissions before the Bench highlighted one case the killing of one Sameer Khan and alleged that in all these cases the police version was invariably that the victims were terrorists from Jaish-e-Mohammed on a mission to assassinate Modi.