On Thursday, May 2, a special CBI court in Ahmedabad discharged former police officers NK Amin and DG Vanzara in the Ishrat Jahan alleged fake encounter case, PTI reported. Amin and Vanzara had filed pleas seeking that proceedings against them be dropped after the Gujarat government did not grant the CBI sanction to prosecute them. Judge JK Pandya of the CBI court stated that since the government had denied sanction, the former police offers’ please were granted, and that proceedings against them would be dropped, PTI said.
Per Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), prior sanction from the government must be obtained to prosecute a public servant, judge, or magistrate who “is accused of any offence alleged to have been committed by him while acting or purporting to act in the discharge of his official duty”.
The Hindu noted that although the CBI did not take a stand on the government’s decision, Shamima Kauser, the mother of Ishrat Jahan, filed an application challenging the Gujarat government’s refusal to grant sanction to prosecute the two police officials in question, in late March. On March 19, the government had refused sanction, with the CBI producing a letter from the state government saying that the sanction was denied for “larger public interest,” and that “….from records placed by CBI, it transpires that the deceased Ishrat Jahan was member of Lashak-e- Toiba… Lahore-based Ghazwa Times, mouthpiece of Lashkar-e-Toiba, had claimed her as woman activist of the Lashakar-e-Toiba,” the Deccan Herald reported. Kauser’s application noted that the Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted by the Gujarat High Court “unanimously concluded that it was not a genuine encounter and that Ishrat Jahan and three others were first abducted, held in illegal confinement and then murdered in cold blood, by officers and men of the Gujarat police including the present applicant and others” in its final report.
On March 26, Vanzara and Amin filed an application seeking the abandoning of charges against them, given the Gujarat government’s refusal to grant sanction. In a submission made through her lawyer, Vrinda Grover, Kauser argued that Amin’s and Vanzara’s pleas were “untenable in law and unsustainable on facts,” and that the Gujarat government was not the appropriate authority to deny sanction, The Hindu reported, adding that Kauser contended that the refusal constituted “interference with the administration of justice.” Kauser argued that Section 197 did not apply to a case related to “abduction, confinement and and murder,” grave crimes that did not fall within the scope of the officers’ official duty. Vanzara’s lawyer, VD Gajjar, contended that the court could not determine the validity of the Gujarat government’s order, and that judicial findings in the case had demonstrated that there was no “fake encounter,” The Hindu reported.
Ishrat Jahan was a 19-year-old student from Mumbra, near Mumbai. She, along with three others, were killed in an alleged fake encounter by members of the Gujarat Police outside Ahmedabad in June 2004. The police had claimed that the four were plotting to kill then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Before the encounter, Shamima Kausar had then filed a complaint alleging that the Gujarat Police had abducted her daughter and the others.