The Gujarat High Court has handed over the case of Ishrat Jehan's death in a fake encounter to the Central Bureau of Investigation. Ishrat, a college student who was 19, was shot dead by the Gujarat police in June 2004 along with three others. At the time, the police claimed the group was working to assassinate Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Earlier this month, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up by the High Court concluded that the police's claims were false, and that Ishrat and the others had been killed before the date of the alleged encounter with the police. The Gujarat High Court then asked for an FIR for murder to be filed against the policemen involved.
The FIR will be filed by the SIT and the CBI will take over the investigations within two weeks, the court directed today.
About 21 policemen face arrest in the case, including four Indian Police Service (IPS) officers. D G Vanzara, who was the Deputy inspector General (DIG) when the encounter took place, has already been arrested in connection with another case - the Sohrabudin fake encounter.
Mumbai-based Ishrat, her friend Pranesh Pillai, and two others - Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar - were found dead on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004.
Last year, the Gujarat High Court set up a Special Team to handle the investigation based on the requests of Ishrat's mother, Shamima Kausar and Gopinath Pillai, whose son was Pranesh.
In October, members of the SIT had reconstructed the alleged encounter at the site where the bodies were found. Experts from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and the Central Forensic Sciences Laboratory (CFSL) were present.
The car with the Maharashtra number plate, which was claimed to have been used by Ishrat and her associates to come to Ahmedabad, and the police Gypsy were also brought to the scene.
A division bench of Justices Jayant Patel and Abhilasha Kumari observed that the case should be considered as an "exceptional one which has national ramifications".
After today's court direction, Mr Verma said, "The court has directed the chairman of SIT to file an FIR with CBI and that shall be the next responsibility we are going to discharge".
This is the fourth Gujarat encounter case to be handed over to a central agency.
The High Court Bench of Justice Jayant Patel and Justice Abhilasha Kumari ruled out handing over further investigations to a state agency, saying that they had been discredited in an earlier report by the SIT. The report had alleged that the government was creating roadblocks in the investigations, the court said.
The Bench said, "The agency to probe the case must instil confidence and should have credibility among the victims, therefore we find it fit not to assign the case to the state police".
(With PTI inputs)