Wednesday, March 2, 2016

SIT officer breaks silence: Ishrat killing was premeditated murder // Ishrat Jehan: 'Brilliant Op' But 'Fake Encounter,' Says Investigator Satish Verma

Breaking his silence on the Ishrat Jahan case, Satish Verma, the IPS officer who assisted the CBI probe into the alleged fake encounter in Gujarat in 2004, on Wednesday said her killing was a “premeditated murder”.

“Our investigation has found that Ishrat along with three others had been picked by IB (Intelligence Bureau) days before the encounter. In fact, there was no intelligence input with the IB that a woman would be accompanying the alleged terrorists. There was no input on Ishrat. These people were kept in illegal custody and then shot dead,” Verma told The Indian ExpressHe was one of the members of the special investigation team appointed by the Gujarat High Court.

Mumbra girl Ishrat was killed along with three men on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004. It was alleged that they were members of a Lashkar-e-Toiba group. Last week, former Home Secretary G K Pillai told Times Now that the alleged Lashkar group was lured by the IB to Gujarat in 2004. An IG-rank officer currently posted as Chief Vigilance Officer of the NEEPCO in Shillong, Verma said: “What is happening here is that this bogey of nationalism and security is being raised to discredit a poor and innocent girl so that an environment can be created for a favourable outcome for those involved in this crime. The Home Ministry has refused sanctions to prosecute IB officers even though courts have held that in fake encounters, there is no requirement for sanction.”

He also disputed the description of Ishrat as a Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorist and a suicide bomber, saying she was away from her home and family for only about 10 days after she came into contact with Javed Sheikh, one of the three men in the group. Also Read | From the archives – RVS Mani affidavits tell how he was ‘coerced’  He contradicted Pillai’s claim that he knew exact details of the case, saying he was “no intelligence officer”.

Verma also denied former Union Home Ministry Under Secretary R V S Mani’s allegation that he had tortured him by burning him with a lit cigarette. Mani had filed two affidavits in 2009 on behalf of the Ministry in the Gujarat High Court — references to Ishrat’s alleged Lashkar links did not find mention in the revised affidavit.

He said Mani’s affidavit filings were “curious” since they did not look like the Home Ministry’s version but that of the Gujarat police investigation. “Mr Mani had no direct knowledge of the case,” he said, adding that the allegations made by Mani against him were “old” and had been made by him earlier too — The Indian Express had reported Mani’s allegations in 2013.

Meanwhile, Verma’s lawyer Rahul Sharma said he will be moving an application before the special CBI court in Ahmedabad to seek a copy of the second chargesheet against four IB officers, including former special director Rajinder Kumar, in the Ishrat Jahan case. The court has not taken cognizance of this chargesheet since the CBI failed to get sanction from the Ministry of Home Affairs to prosecute the IB officers. The chargesheet remains pending.

Verma will argue that when the first chargesheet was filed against Gujarat police officers, no sanction was sought from the state government by the CBI. But in the second chargesheet, sanction was sought from the Union Government which has been denied. Sources said Verma will approach the court with the plea that “denial of prosecution sanction in respect of the accused in the second chargesheet suffers from illegality and is not sustainable in law”. 

Ishrat Jehan: 'Brilliant Op' But 'Fake Encounter,' Says Investigator Satish Verma
As controversy rages over the Ishrat Jehan case, a member of the CBI team that probed the encounter has finally broken his silence on the matter. Satish Verma, a Gujarat cadre IPS officer, told NDTV that Ishrat, a 19-year-old college student, and the three men shot by Gujarat Police in Ahmedabad in June 2004 were killed in "cold blood". This comes at a time when former Home Secretary GK Pillai and a slew of former officials have, in recent weeks, claimed that the encounter was a successful operation by the Intelligence Bureau.

"The CBI chargesheet says exactly the same thing that this was a controlled operation of the IB. Some people came here, they were caught, they were clubbed with Javed and Ishrat and killed in cold blood. Now this may be a brilliant operation, but then this is also a fake encounter. So both are true," Mr Verma told NDTV.

A dispute has also broken out over the two affidavits filed by the Home Ministry on the encounter - the first says that Ishrat was a member of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), while the second reverses that conclusion. The Home Ministry official who drafted the affidavits, RVS Mani, has accused Satish Verma of torturing him in order to implicate members of the Intelligence Bureau.

Dismissing the allegations as "complete nonsense", Mr Verma said, "For one thing, there is nothing like that in the statement of Mr Mani (to the Home Ministry in 2013). He has said nothing material and he is alleging that we wanted him to implicate officers". He also alleged that Mr Mani had admitted to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) that the first affidavit was drafted by the Intelligence Bureau. "That is what Mr Mani told us. He told us so, when we examined him that how did he write in the affidavit, as it is a long affidavit which goes into details that were only available to the investigating officer of the Gujarat Police subsequent to the incident."

The first affidavit says that Ishrat was a member of the LeT, based, amongst others, on newspaper reports which referred to her martyrdom being celebrated in the terror group's official mouthpiece. Last month, terrorist David Coleman Headley, in his testimony to a Mumbai court, said that she was an LeT operative. But Satish Verma said both sources were unreliable. "After very laborious investigations on the subject (by the CBI), there is no material to indicate that Ishrat could have been an LeT operative, much less a suicide bomber or a fidayeen."