Three out of the 17 police encounters that took place in Gujarat from 2002 to 2006 were fake, a committee set up to investigate these cases has told the Supreme Court. The committee headed by Justice HS Bedi also recommended action against nine police officers who were found to be involved in three custodial killings in these alleged fake encounters.
In the final 229-page report submitted to the Supreme Court, the committee said it had "prima facie evidence of custodial killings" of three persons -- Sameer Khan, Kasam Jafar and Haji Haji Ismail.
The committee, however, has not recommended prosecution of any IPS officer in these cases.
The court had appointed Justice Bedi, a former Supreme Court judge, as chairman of the monitoring committee probing 17 encounter cases from 2002 to 2006 in Gujarat and the panel had submitted its report to the top court in a sealed cover in February last year.
On January 9, a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had rejected the Gujarat government''s plea to maintain confidentiality of the final report of committee and ordered that it be given to petitioners, including poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar.
Mr Akhtar and veteran journalist BG Verghese (who passed away in 2014) had filed two PILs in the Supreme Court in 2007 seeking a probe by an independent agency or the CBI in these cases.
In the case of Sameer Khan, the committee has recommended prosecution of two inspectors KM Vaghela and TA Barot for the offence of murder and other relevant offences.
According to the police, Sameer Khan along with his cousin had stabbed a police constable, who had died on the spot in May 1996. While his cousin was arrested, he had fled from spot. The police claimed that Sameeer Khan went to Pakistan and took training from terror group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and re-entered India via Nepal. The report noted that as per police, after the 2002 Akshardham Mandir attack, Sameer Khan was directed by a Pakistan-based JeM operative to go to Ahmedabad and kill the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Sameer Khan was arrested by the Crime Branch in a case related to waging war against the country and when he was taken at the spot where he had stabbed the constable in 1996, he snatched the loaded revolver of inspector Vaghela and fired at him and ran away. As per police, the other two inspectors -- Tarun Barot and A A Chauhan (since dead) -- fired at him and he was later taken to a hospital but was declared dead.
However, the panel has found that he was killed in a fake encounter by the police.
Referring to the medical and other reports, the committee has said, "It is, therefore, obvious that the police officers were close and towering over the deceased and he was probably sitting on the ground and perhaps cringing for his life."
It said since inspector Chauhan has passed away, no proceeding against him was possible. Besides, the panel has also granted Rs. 10 lakh compensation to Sameer Khan's family.
In Kasam Jafar's case, the panel found that the police had not been able to establish that he was involved in criminal activities. Jafar was picked alongwith 17 other persons from a hotel in Ahmedabad on April 13, 2006. A day later, his body was recovered underneath a bridge. The panel said sub-inspector J M Bharwad and constable Ganeshbhai involved in the killing and they were needed to be prosecuted for the offence of murder. The committee, by its order on November 21, 2013, had also awarded Rs. 14 lakhs as compensation to his family.
Similarly, the committee questioned police version in the 2005 murder of Haji Haji Ismail. As per police, Ismail opened fire at the police party which retaliated in self defence and fired 20 shots at him leading to his death at a government hospital.
The panel took note of the post-mortem report and said that out of the six wounds of entry, five had blackening round them and it meant that these shots were fired from a close range.
Apart from the three cases, the panel also dealt with 14 other cases which relates to alleged fake encounter killings of -- Mithu Umar Dafer, Anil Bipin Misra, Mahesh, Rajeshwar, Kashyap Harpalsingh Dhaka, Salim Gagji Miyana, Jala Popat Devipujak, Rafiksha, Bheema Maanda Mer, Jogindrasinh Khatansing, Ganesh Khunte, Mahendra Jadav, Subhash Bhaskar Nayyar and Sanjay.
With additional inputs from Agencies