The Justice H S Bedi committee, which investigated several cases of alleged fake encounter in Gujarat from 2002 to 2006, has recommended prosecution of police officials in three out of the 17 cases probed by it. In its final report filed in the apex court, Justice Bedi has said three persons -- Sameer Khan, Kasam Jafar and Haji Haji Ismail -- were prime facie killed in fake encounters by the Gujarat Police officials. The committee has indicted a total of nine police officials, including three inspector rank officer. It has however not recommended prosecution of an IPS officer in these cases.
The court had appointed Justice Bedi, ex-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 the confidentiality of the final report of the committee and ordered that it be given to petitioners, including poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar. Dealing with the case of Sameer Khan, the committee has recommended the prosecution of two inspectors K M Vaghela and T A Barot for the offence of murder and other relevant offences.
According to the police, Sameer 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 the spot. The police had alleged that later he went to Pakistan and took training from terror organisation Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and re-entered India via Nepal. The report noted 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. It noted that Sameer 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 the constable was stabbed 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."
"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. Besides, the panel has also granted Rs 10 lakh compensation to Sameer's family. In Kasam Jafar's case, the police had alleged that he was picked along with 17 other persons from a hotel in Ahmedabad on April 13, 2006.
According to police, Jafar was being taken to a police station and during the transit, he escaped from custody and 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," Justice Bedi said in his report.
He concluded that sub-inspector J M Bharwad and constable Ganeshbhai were prima facie 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. Similarly, the committee noted in its report that as per policy, on October 9, 2005, they had received information that notorious smuggler Haji Haji Ismail would be going to a place in his Maruti Zen car.
Ismail came out of his car and 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. The panel belied the claim that the fire exchanges between Ismail and police party had taken place from a distance of 15-20 feet. "It is, therefore, crystal clear that firing on the deceased was from a distance of two feet or less completely falsifying the police version and being suggestive of a custodial killing," the panel concluded.
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. 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 inputs from agencies.)