CBI today held that 19-year-old college student Ishrat Jahan was killed in a "fake" encounter in cold blood here in 2004 in a joint operation by Gujarat police and the Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau, a development that comes as a major embarrassment to the Narendra Modi government.
The chargesheet filed by CBI in a local court, which also raises questions over the role of Intelligence Bureau, does not say whether the girl from Mumbai and three others killed with her were terrorists saying there was no mandate from the High Court to investigate their status.
Nor does it name any political leaders in the conspiracy.
It, however, made clear CBI found no evidence that they had come to Gujarat to kill Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
The CBI chargesheeted seven Gujarat police officers including absconding Additional DGP P P Pandey and suspended DIG D G Vanzara charging them with criminal conspiracy, abduction, wrongful confinement and murder.
DG Vanzara (top left), GL Singhal (top right), Tarun Bhanot (bottom left) and NK Amin
File - PTI Photo
"The encounter was a joint operation between Gujarat police and Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau (SIB) of the state," CBI said in the charge sheet, adding, "the encounter was fake".
The CBI told the court of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate H S Khutwad that their investigation has established offence against all the seven police officers charge sheeted in the case.
Investigation is going on against four Intelligence Bureau officers, including its Special Director Rajinder Kumar, and three other officers-- P Mittal, M K Sinha and Rajiv Wankhede, it said.
A supplementary charge sheet would be filed against IB officers once the investigation was over, the court was told.
The chargesheet, which is bound to open a can of worms, is the first instance in Gujarat encounter cases where the IB has been implicated, saying that Intelligence Bureau officials were involved from the time of abduction, to illegal confinement and killing of the four people.
Apart from Pandey and Vanzara, the other Gujarat police officers who have been charge-sheeted are G L Singhal, Tarun Barot, N K Amin, J G Parmar and Anaju Chaudhary.
Dubbed as terrorists with Lashkar-e-Toiba elements, Ishrat, hailing from Mumbra in Thane district adjoining Mumbai, Javed Shaikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjadali Akbarali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were killed in the encounter with the Gujarat police on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004.
The conspiracy, the charge sheet says, was hatched by Additional DGP Pandey, DIG Vanzara and Rajinder Kumar, who was then posted as Joint Director of the SIB in Gujarat.
It says that crime branch officer Amin and Barot had taken Ishrat and Javed Sheikh into their custody on June 12 from a toll booth at Vasad in Anand district with the help of M K Sinha and Rajiv Wankhede of the IB.
The document says that the four killed in the encounter were in prior custody of Gujarat police and, in fact, Ishrat and Javed were interrogated by Rajinder Kumar at a farm house on the city outskirts where they were kept in confinement.
"On June 13, 2003 Vanzara, Pandey, Kumar and Amin had gone to the farm house and interrogated Ishrat and Javed," the charge sheet said.
The other two were also brought to Ahmedabad before the encounter was staged and were kept at separate locations, it said.
All the four were taken to a place near Kotarpur waterworks, the encounter spot, on the outskirts of the city on June 15, 2003 and were killed in cold blood, the charge sheet said.
Police officers Amin, Barot, Anaju and Mohan Kalashwa, the police commando guarding Vanzara, made them stand near the road divider and fired on them, the charge sheet said. Kalashwa has since died and has not been named in the document.
It also said that the weapons including AK-47 rifles found from the encounter spot and claimed to be of those shot in the encounter, were procured by Gujarat police officer Singhal from SIB.
The CBI also said they found no evidence that the four had come to Gujarat to kill Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
"During our investigation so far nothing was found which suggests that three men and Ishrat came to kill the Chief Minister," it said.
'Ishrat Wasn't a Terrorist'
Nine years after 19-year-old Ishrat Jahan was killed along with three others by Gujarat Police, CBI today ruled out her involvement in terror activities and said she was accompanying Javed Sheikh on his trip to Ahmedabad as he was her employer.
CBI sources said although the agency has not mentioned antecedents of either of four individuals -- Javed Sheikh, Ishrat Jahan, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar -- killed in the encounter on June 15, 2004, it plans to give a detailed report on the conspiracy which led to the extra-judicial killings in the supplementary charge sheet.
The sources said the agency has also found during its probe that the FIR of the encounter, in which four persons were killed on June 15, 2004, was prepared before the encounter took place by the Gujarat Police.
Contrary to various theories on the reasons why Ishrat chose to accompany Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai on his trip to Gujarat where they were killed, CBI sources said she was an employee of Sheikh who had helped her family during a crisis.
The sources said Sheikh was an employee of Ishrat's father and was known to their family for quite a long time. Sheikh later established his own business in Mumbai and was doing well.
They said after the death of Ishrat's father, family was in dire need of money and for the sake of goodwill, Sheikh gave her employment in his business.
CBI found in its investigation that Ishrat accompanied Sheikh on his trip to Ahmedabad where they were allegedly picked by officials of subsidiary intelligence bureau, state unit of country's snooping agency Intelligence Bureau, and Gujarat Crime Branch officials.
The sources said Ishrat and Javed were allegedly picked up from Vasad in Gujarat three-four days before the fake encounter and kept at a farmhouse in the illegal custody of SIB and Gujarat Crime Branch officials.
They said Rana was allegedly intercepted by the SIB and Gujarat Police officials in May, nearly a month before the fake encounter, while Johar was allegedly picked up in April, nearly two months before the encounter.
The sources said the then SIB Chief Rajinder Kumar, now Special Director Intelligence Bureau, ADGP Gujarat Police P P Pandey, who is absconding, and the then DIG Crime branch D G Vanzara, who is under judicial custody, held a meeting at Vanzara's office in Ahmedabad where it was decided to kill Sheikh, Johar, and Rana.
The sources said, however, there was a difference of opinion about the fate of Ishrat during the meeting.
On the day of encounter, June 15, 2004, a Gujarat police official allegedly drove Sheikh, Ishrat and Johar in the Blue Indica car, owned by Sheikh, from the farmhouse where they were kept in illegal custody to the location of encounter on an empty stretch of road between Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar.
Rana was brought in a different car to the location and all four were killed by Gujarat crime branch officials in a staged encounter, CBI claimed in its charge sheet filed today.
The sources said role of Kumar, the then SIB Chief, and two other officials of the IB is under the scanner of the agency and they are likely to be named as accused in the supplementary charge sheet to be filed by the agency.
The sources said the agency's probe is based on material evidence collected by it, voluminous call records and statements of at least 20 witnesses who have recorded their accounts before a competent Magistrate.
None of the seven policemen who have been made accused in the charge sheet today have given their statements before the Magistrate under Section 164.
'Ishrat and the Others Were Kidnapped, Confined and Killed'
CBI's charge sheet in the Ishrat Jahan case claims that the college student and three others were in the custody of the Gujarat police prior to their killing in a fake encounter.
The first charge sheet states that alleged Pakistani national Zeeshan Johar, one of those slain alongwith Ishrat, was in the illegal custody of Gujarat police for almost three months.
"Zeeshan Johar was brought to Ahmedabad, with the co-operation of two informers of Rajendra Kumar, then chief of Gujarat Subsidiary IB, in the month of April 2004," states the chargesheet filed today before Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate and CBI judge H S Khutwad.
To bring Zeeshan to Ahmedabad, Rajendra Kumar used his alleged informants - Ovais and Asad - and he was kept in an apartment at Gota Housing colony in the city.
Ishrat Jahan and Javed Shaikh alias Pranesh Pillai, who were allegedly summoned by SIB Gujarat officer, travelled in a blue Indica car and reached Vasad toll-booth in Anand district on June 12. There, they were taken into custody by N K Amin and Tarun Barot, CBI says.
"To take them in custody, the two Gujarat cops were helped by State Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau (SIB) officers M K Sinha and Rajeev Wankhede," it adds.
The charge sheet further says both Ishrat and Javed were later brought to the Khodiyar farm house, owned by K S Desai, on S G Highway on outer periphery of the city, where two of Tarun Barot's subordinates were asked to keep a tight watch.
Both Ishrat and Javed were visited and interrogated more than once by Rajendra Kumar and D G Vanzara.
In the same way, Amjad Ali Rana, another alleged Pakistani national who was killed with Ishrat and others, was brought to the city in May, and was kept at Arham Farm house near Gandhinagar.
On June 15, 2004, all the four were brought blindfolded to a spot near Kotarpur Water Works on the northern outskirts of the city, where the fake encounter took place.
Incidently, Bharat Patel is the only police officer who was arrested in the case, but not mentioned in the list of accused in the charge sheet.
Patel got default bail a few weeks ago when CBI failed to file chargesheet within 90 days of his arrest.
Modi Will Also Be Exposed in Some Time: Cong
Congress launched a scathing attack on Narendra Modi saying "truth speaks for itself from the rooftop" and claimed that the chief minister's role in such encounters will also be exposed.
"He (Modi) will also be exposed some time. Truth comes out at one point or the other. Truth speaks for itself from the rooftop. Someday, you will come to know of the real face of the Gujarat Chief Minister," AICC general secretary Madhusudan Mistri told reporters.
Mistri said all "the people from Gujarat know that this encounter was fake. During a period of three months, when there was talks about removing Modi as Chief Ministers, such encounters took place with frequent intervals propping up a theory that there was an attempt to murder Modi".
The AICC general secretary, who hails from Gujarat, also said sarcastically that "no one comes to kill Modi since some of the police officers went to jail".
Rejecting BJP's charge that it was doing vote-bank politics in encounter cases, Congress questioned the intent of BJP in defending IB officer Rajinder Kumar over his role in Ishrat case.
"CBI is a central agency. So is IB. Why they (BJP) are defending the IB officer? What interest they have in protecting the IB officer? Why they are doing it? What is their intent," Mistri asked, adding that the CBI inquiry in this case is not taking place at the behest of Congress but as per orders of the Supreme Court and high court.
Chargesheet Underplays the Role of LeT: BJP
BJP said the CBI charge sheet into the Ishrat Jahan case underplays the role of LeT and terrorists and indicts the security agencies, demoralising them in the process.
"The BJP thinks, this charge sheet which has been filed... Very clearly underplays the role of LeT, underplays the role of terrorists and certainly indicts the security apparatus and demoralises them in the process," BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said.
Reminding the government that the encounter took place when the Congress-led UPA was in power at the Centre, she said, "Congress party should stop playing politics on terrorist attacks, terrorist encounters because this is an issue concerning the security of the nation."
She said even the Prime Minister would have been briefed about the inputs provided by IB to the Gujarat government on the encounter.
Surprised that IB Officer Was Not Named: Lawyer
The lawyer of one of the four people killed in the encounter which the CBI established as fake expressed surprise that Rajinder Kumar, a Special Director of Intelligence Bureau, was not named in its first charge sheet itself.
Mukul Sinha, lawyer for Javed Shaikh alias Pranesh Pillai, alleged there was political pressure behind Kumar not being made an accused in the first charge sheet submitted in the 2004 Ishar Jahan encounter case.
"I am surprised his (Kumar) name was not there," he added.
Sinha said Kumar should not only be named but also arrested especially when the CBI submitted in its charge sheet that the fake encounter was a "joint operation" between Gujarat police and Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau (SIB).
"It is a clever method of hiding the truth as far as the actual culprits are concerned," Sinha said, and alleged that Kumar is one of the main accused.
The charge sheet, however, said investigation is on against Kumar and other four officers of the IB.