Prashant Chandra Pande, former DGP of Gujarat who was discharged from the murder and conspiracy of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife Kauser Bi and his associate Tulsiram Prajapati, was recently relieved as chairman of the Police Housing Corporation, but his name continues to be on the Adani group website as the officer in charge of its security systems.
Even as Pande joined the Adani Group soon after his retirement, the government set a precedent by appointing him as the chairman of the Police Housing Corporation. The CBI chargesheet, filed in September 2012, repeatedly mentions this job as a “reward”.
The chargesheet says “Accused P C Pande (A-17), the then Director-General of Police, Gujarat, at the time enjoyed the unstinted support of Amit Shah (A-1), the then Minister of State for Home, Government of Gujarat, and further, subsequent to his retirement, he became the first retired officer of the Indian Police Service to be appointed as the Chairman of the Gujarat State Police Housing Corporation (PHC), a tenurial post of three years”. The term ended last month.
It again mentioned how Pande “was suitably rewarded for his such illegal services rendered in furtherance of the criminal conspiracy as aforesaid…” by being appointed PHC chairman within six months.
The CBI had named Pande in the “conspiracy” and “murder” of the three encounter victims, and said that he had acted on behalf of his “political patron” Amit Shah. The same court on December 30 last year had dropped charges against Shah in the same case.
Pande had moved an application before the court under section of 197 of code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), arguing that the CBI had not taken government sanction before prosecuting him. Under this section, a government sanction is required prior to investigation against a government servant. Pande’s lawyer, S V Raju, said that the officer had sought relief on the ground that “he only discharged his duty as a public servant”. According to Raju, the court allowed the application and discharged him from the trial.
According to lawyers, it is up to the CBI to seek sanction from the Gujarat government. They say that if the government sanctions, Pande will again have to face the trial. Accordingly, if the government doesn’t give the mandatory sanction and any concerned party appeals in the court, the government can be directed to grant the sanction.
The CBI chargesheeted Pande under IPC sections 120 (b) (conspiracy), 302 (murder), 201 (destruction of evidence) among others. The CBI claimed that Pande delayed the interim reports, which were to be submitted in the Supreme Court, by three months prepared by then police inspector VL Solanki who was entrusted with the preliminary inquiry into Tulsiram Prajapati encounter.
Prajapati was killed in Banaskantha, on December 28, 2006, exactly a year after Sohrabuddin was killed on November 26, 2005 in Ahmedabad, followed by his wife Kauser Bi. After Sohrabuddin’s murder, Rubabuddin filed a habeas corpus petition before SC on his missing sister-in-law whose preliminary probe revealed she had been killed and the encounter was staged. Kauser Bi and Prajapati were killed since they were eye witnesses to the fake encounter. The first arrests in this case were made in April 2007, by then DIG Rajnish Rai posted in CID (crime) of Gujarat Police, those of IPS officers DG Vanzara, Rajkumar Pandian and Dinesh MN of Rajasthan. The case was then handed over to CBI.
Pande who has been a CBI officer, was the police commissioner of Ahmedabad during the 2002 communal riots and a petition to arraign him as an accused in the Gulberg massacre case, is being heard in the special designated court.
Pande went on to become DGP but was shifted out after protests since he was one of the officers listed as accused in the Zakia Jafri petition against then chief minister Narendra Modi and 61 others.
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