Challenging the Gujarat government’s refusal to grant sanction to prosecute two retired IPS officers — D G Vanzara and N K Amin — in the 2004 Ishrat Jahan encounter case, her mother’s lawyer, Vrinda Grover, on Tuesday questioned the very role of Gujarat state in denying the sanction to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for prosecution and said that there was no need for seeking such a sanction from the government in the case. She also said that the state government “seems to be protecting and shielding the two accused officers”.
Ishrat, a 19-year-old woman from Mumbra near Mumbai, and three others — Javed Shaikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjadali Akbarali Rana and Zeeshan Johar — were killed by Gujarat Police in an alleged fake encounter on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004. The police had claimed that they had links with terrorists.
The CBI had approached the Gujarat government for sanction on directions of the special court last October. It had sought sanction for prosecution under Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure – under this section, prior sanction is required from a competent authority to prosecute a public servant.
On March 6 this year, the BJP government in Gujarat submitted a letter in a sealed cover to the special CBI court , declining to grant sanction to prosecute the two accused police officers — Vanzara and Amin. Subsequently, the two filed applications in the court for dropping proceedings against them.
Appearing for Ishrat’s mother Shamima Kauser, Grover told the court that “except for changing the name of the accused the two orders are identical, cyclostyled and even bear the same document number”.
Grover’s preliminary submission was that all the evidence be placed before the court, including the supplementary chargesheet that details out the evidence of criminal conspiracy. “Since the court had rejected the discharge applications on the ground that there existed sufficient evidence against the two accused, it did not have the power to drop proceedings against them… The cyclostyled, identical orders with copy pasted file/ document numbers show that there is no application of mind by the State of Gujarat, that the orders have been passed in a mechanical manner, all relevant evidence and law has not been considered and the order is not well reasoned,” she argued.
“Regardless of what the state government says, framing of charges is a judicial exercise and not an executive one. Sanction for prosecution is not a red light to be given to the judiciary and is at the very heart of the independence of the judiciary arm,” she said.
With Vanzara and Amin being booked for multiple charges under several sections of the IPC and the Arms Act, Grover said “their reliance on Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) 197 is misconceived and has no role to play as per law of the land”.
Pointing out that CrPC section 197 states that a court shall not take cognizance of an offence by public servant “alleged to have been committed by him while acting or purporting to act in the discharge of his official duty,” Grover argued, “The chargesheet shows that NK Amin and DG Vanzara played active roles in the criminal conspiracy to abduct, confine and stage the encounter of Ishrat Jahan and others. It shows that Vanzara drafted an FIR against the four victims, a day prior to the alleged encounter. It shows that he arranged for a farmhouse to be made available and Ishrat and Javed were illegally detained in the farmhouse for two days prior to their murder. The chargesheet shows that NK Amin participated in the abduction of Ishrat and Javed on June 12, 2004, two days prior to the murder. It shows that he was present at the site of the staged encounter, and that he participated in the murder of Ishrat and others”.
Grover told the court that the evidence showed that the acts committed by Vanzara and Amin “were outside the scope of a police officers duty, that there is no reasonable nexus between these acts and the duty of a police officer and hence there is no question of requiring sanction of the Government to prosecute the officers”.
Alleging that “the State seems to be protecting and shielding the two accused officers”, Grover said that the despite the CBI filing a chargesheet against seven police officers of Gujarat, each of the accused officers were granted bail by the CBI court from 2015 onwards, and the state government reinstated each of the accused into senior positions in the police force, “despite the fact that they are facing trial for the cold-blooded murder of four people”.
Judge J K Pandya adjourned the hearing to April 16 when Vanzara and Amin would put forward their arguments.