New Delhi: The Justice HS Bedi committee has recommended prosecution of nine Gujarat police officials in three out of 17 fake encounter cases. The monitoring committee was set up by the Gujarat government on March 2, 2012, to probe the cases of fake encounter killings in the state between 2002-2006. The Supreme Court had appointed former Justice HS Bedi as the chairman of the panel in the same year.
In its report, the committee has indicted a total of nine police officials, including three inspector rank officer but it has not recommended prosecution of any IPS officer in these cases. Three persons — Sameer Khan, Kasam Jafar, and Haji Haji Ismail — were killed in the fake encounters by the Gujarat Police officials.
Sameer Khan Encounter
The police report had claimed that Sameer Khan along with his cousin had stabbed a police constable in May 1996. His cousin was arrested but Khan had fled from the spot. The police had alleged that later Khan went to Pakistan and took training from Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and re-entered India via Nepal.
The committee report stated that as per police, after the 2002 Akshardham Mandir attack, Sameer was directed by a Pakistan-based JeM operative to go to Ahmedabad and kill the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Sameer was arrested by the crime branch in a case related to waging war against the country. When he was taken at the spot where the constable was stabbed in 1996, he snatched the loaded revolver of inspector K M Vaghela and fired at him and ran away. The other two inspectors — Tarun Barot and A A Chauhan— 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.” “I am, therefore, of the opinion that inspector K M Vaghela and inspector T A Barot at the first instance be prosecuted for murder and other relevant offences and if it is found during the trial that there is evidence against others as well, they too should be brought in as per law,” the panel has said.
It said since inspector Chauhan has passed away, no proceeding against him as possible. And the panel has also granted Rs 10 lakh compensation to Sameer’s family.
Kasam Jafar Encounter
In the second encounter case, the police had alleged that Kasam Jafar and 17 other persons was picked from a hotel in Ahmedabad on April 13, 2006. Jafar was being taken to a police station and during the way, he escaped from custody. Then a day later, his body was recovered underneath a bridge.
“The effort of the police officers to dub the deceased and his companions as criminals have also not been successful as no evidence whatsoever has been produced to show that they had been involved in any crime. The very detention on April 13, 2006, from Royal Hotel, was thus not justified,” stated the report.
The report concluded that sub-inspector J M Bharwad and constable Ganeshbhai were 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 the widow and children of the deceased.
Haji Haji Ismail Encounter
On October 9, 2005, police had received information that notorious smuggler Haji Haji Ismail would be going to a place in his Maruti Zen car. When police reached the destination, 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.
Taking note of the autopsy report, the panel 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. The panel believed the claim that the fire exchanges between Ismail and police party had taken place from a distance of 15-20 feet.
The panel recommended prosecution of five policemen in this case — inspector KG Erda and sub-inspectors L B Monpara, J M Yadav, S K Shah, and Prag P Vyas.
It is to be noted here that on January 9 this year, the Supreme Court had rejected the Gujarat government’s plea and ordered that the final report of the Justice H S Bedi Committee on 24 alleged fake encounter cases from 2002 to 2006 in the state be given to parties of the petition.
The top court was hearing two PILs filed in 2007 by veteran journalist B G Verghese and poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar, seeking a direction for a probe by an independent agency or the CBI so the “truth may come out”. Verghese passed away on December 30, 2014.