A special CBI court in Ahmedabad, while presiding over the trial of the extrajudicial killing of Ishrat Jahan on Friday, disposed the discharge pleas filed by four accused officers – JG Parmar, Tarun Barot, GL Singhal and Anaju Chaudhary – with a direction to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to seek sanction from the state government to prosecute the accused officers. Of the four, JG Parmar had passed away on September 21 and hence, abated from the case.
Ishrat Jahan, Pranesh Pillai and two others who were said to be Pakistanis – Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar – were killed near Kotarpur waterworks on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004, by officers of the Ahmedabad Detection of Crime Branch (DCB), then led by DG Vanzara. The DCB had then claimed that the four were operatives of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and out to kill the then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.
The CBI had originally filed the case in 2013 against seven policemen, three of whom now stand discharged – P P Pandey, DG Vanzara and NK Amin.
At the time of making submissions before the CBI court, the present accused had pointed out that the CBI was expected to obtain sanction to prosecute them prior to framing of charges. In the case of the earlier accused DG Vanzara and NK Amin, it was only owing to the court’s instructions that the CBI had sought sanction for their prosecution, both of whom had filed discharge pleas at the time. The sanction was subsequently declined by the government.
During the course of argument of the discharge plea of the four present accused officers, it was submitted that they believe that “sanction for prosecution shall be declined with respect to (the remaining) case also.” This was primarily assumed on the basis of the observations made by the special CBI court in its earlier orders, which “are squarely applicable to the present accused, too.”
In August 2018, then special CBI Judge JK Pandya, while rejecting the discharge applications of DG Vanzara and NK Amin, had observed, “…Before framing of charge in the case, the CBI should make it clear whether it will obtain sanction for prosecution or not, so that the case of the complainant should not be affected. Framing of charge against the accused without sanction would be bad in law and therefore, the CBI is directed to either obtain sanction for prosecution from the concerned authority or declare in writing the legal position as per the law, with regard to sanction for prosecution against the accused…”
Relying on the fact that the order mentioned “accused” and not “applicant-accused”, the lawyers for the present accused argued that the CBI should have sought sanction to prosecute all six (PP Pandey was discharged prior to August 2018) instead of only seeking the sanction from the state government, for Vanzara and Amin.
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