The Gujarat High Court on Tuesday appointed Rajiv Ranjan Verma, a Bihar cadre IPS officer, as the fourth chief of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the Ishrat Jahan encounter, while coming down heavily on the Centre for adopting a “causal approach” in the case.
The court appointed J V Ramudu, an Andhra Pradesh cadre IPS officer, to the post on Friday, after the Centre assured the court that his consent has been taken for the job.
However, Ramudu refused to take up the job due to health reasons and informed the court that his consent in the matter was not sought.The Centre on Tuesday through Assistant Solicitor General Pankaj Champanari moved an application in the court of Justice Jayant Patel and Abhilasha Kumari, giving updates on Ramudu’s denial and suggested new names for his replacement.
Besides Verma, the names of R C Arora of Madhya Pradesh cadre and Vivek Dubey of Andhra Pradesh cadre were suggested.
The Centre this time made a categorical statement in its application that Verma, who is presently posted as Additional Director General with the CISF, is willing to take up the job.
It also submitted related documents and communications with the officers in the court.
Coming down heavily on the Centre, the court said that the Government of India should have been aware of Ramudu’s ill health before suggesting his name.
“Do not make a mockery of proceedings in the case,” the court said adding that the approach of the Union government was very casual.
The court also ordered the secretary and joint secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs to submit an affidavit in the court before August 4 to explain the suggestion of Ramudu’s name.
The court has asked the MHA Secretary and Joint Secretary to submit all documents related to communication with Andhra Pradesh government for appointment of Ramudu as SIT chief.
Verma will be the fourth chief of the Ishrat SIT. At the time of appointment of the Ishrat SIT almost a year back, it was headed by Delhi cadre IPS officer Karnail Singh, who was relieved later. The court then appointed Maharashtra cadre IPS officer Satyapal Singh who was replaced by Ramudu later.
Justice Kumari said, “this is the third time it has happened, what kind of impression are we giving.”
The court also stated in its order that if it found that there was a casual approach by the Union government or an attempt to mislead the court it would attract serious action.
The court further said sanctity of order and proceedings of the court required to be respected by all and first of all, it should come from the Union government.
If the sanctity of order is not maintained by the Union of India it would be a blow to democratic structure, it added.
The court also pointed out that the Gujarat government has made allegations that the Central government was trying to drag the case to some other agencies like CBI by suggesting wrong names to head the Ishrat SIT.
Ishrat, along with three others — Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar – was killed in a police encounter on June 15, 2004.
After the encounter, city crime branch had claimed that the deceased were Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists who had come to kill Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Probe in the case is being supervised directly by the Gujarat High Court, which had constituted the SIT last year to investigate genuineness of the encounter after petitions filed by Ishrat’s mother Shamima Kausar and Gopinath Pillai, father of Javed Sheikh.