Former in charge police chief of Gujarat DGP PP Pandey was among the 168 police officers from the state who were conferred with medals for distinguished and meritorious service by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani in Ahmedabad Thursday.
Pandey was an accused in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case of 2004 and was later discharged. Another retired IPS officer Mohan Jha who was in the Supreme Court-appointed SIT that investigated the Ishrat Jahan encounter case was also among those awarded at the event.
Ishrat Jahan, Pranesh Pillai and two others – Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar, who were said to be Pakistani nationals – were killed near Kotarpur waterworks on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004 allegedly by Ahmedabad City Detection of Crime Branch, then led by DCP DG Vanzara. Pandey was the Joint Commissioner (crime) at the time. DCB had claimed at the time that the four were operatives of the terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba, and they were out to kill the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
The names of the 168 officers were announced between 2014 and 2019 on the occasions of Republic Day and Independence Day in these five years. Pandey was one among 18 who were awarded a President Police Medal. 150 others got the ‘police medal’.
A 1980-batch IPS, in July 2013, Pandey – posted as additional DGP [ADGP] (CID) crime at the time – was arrested in the encounter case. The CBI had chargesheeted him and other accused for conspiracy, murder and kidnapping, among other offences. He was granted bail in February 2015 and four days after his bail, the Gujarat government had revoked the suspension order against him, appointing him as the director of the state’s Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).
By April 2016, the state government handed him the additional charge as Director General and Inspector General of Police.
In May 2016, a public interest litigation was moved by former DGP Julio Ribeiro opposing Pandey’s appointment and extension as in charge DGP. The PIL was dismissed in August 2016 on the ground that Pandey has been given additional charge “as a stop-gap arrangement”, and that it was not a regular appointment. Ribeiro subsequently moved the Supreme Court.
In December 2016, then posted as in-charge DGP (IGP), Pandey filed his discharge application. Subsequently, he was expected to retire in January 2017 but a proposal from the Gujarat government to grant an extension of three months to Pandey, was cleared by the Appointment Committee of the Cabinet (ACC), headed by the Prime Minister, to continue as DGP and director, anti-corruption bureau. Nearly four weeks before his extended term was set to be over (that is April 30, 2017), Pandey stepped down.
All proceedings with respect to the Ishrat Jahan encounter case against Pandey was dropped by the special CBI court in February 2018 on the ground that key witnesses had made contradictory statements and prior sanction had not been sought from the government to prosecute an officer. The Special CBI Court discharged Pandey.
Pandey’s discharge also paved the way for the proceedings to be dropped against two other accused officers – DG Vanzara and NK Amin. Other accused too have filed discharge applications, currently pending before the court.
Pandey was the first to be felicitated at the event by the chief minister. Speaking on the occasion, Rupani said, “In Gujarat, communal tension is a thing of the past… and such criminal elements cannot dare again and nor would we permit it. It is our responsibility to ensure security and safety of all our citizens,” Rupani said.