Ahmedabad, Feb 21 (IANS) A special CBI court here on Wednesday discharged former Gujarat DGP incharge P.P. Pandey, a key accused in the 2004 Ishrat Jahan shootout case.
Allowing Pandey’s discharge application, court presiding officer J.K. Pandya said that the investigating agency had not been able to provide evidence against the police officer relating to kidnapping and murder of Ishrat Jahan and three others on the city outskirts in 2004.
With this development, Pandey has become the first accused to be discharged in the case.
The court ruled that evidence given by witnesses in the case was contradictory and that they gave different versions to different investigating agencies.
The court pointed out that according to Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), in case of a government servant, the Investigating Officer was required to take permission from the state to prosecute him and file the charge sheet. This was not the case with Pandey, it added.
The Ahmedabad Police Crime Branch officials had gunned down 19-year-old college student Ishrat Jahan hailing from Mumbra in Maharashtra, her friend Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh, Zeeshan Johar and Amzad Rana in an alleged shootout on June 15, 2004, on Ahmedabad’s outskirts, claiming they had come to carry out terror activities in the state, including an attack on then Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Pandey was head of the Crime Branch at that time.
The CBI, that investigated the case, had in its first charge sheet filed in 2013, accused seven police and Indian Police Service officials, including Pandey, ADG D.G. Vanzara and G.L. Singhal, of kidnapping, murder and conspiracy.
The CBI had also named four Intelligence Bureau officials, including Special Director Rajinder Kumar and officer M.S. Sinha, in its supplementary charge sheet, which still awaits the Centre’s sanction.
Pandey spent 19 months in jail till February 2015. He was later reinstated as Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) and later as DGP in-charge of the state. He, however, was forced to resign as head of the state police in April 2017 after his promotion was challenged in the Supreme Court by former top cop Julio F. Ribeiro.
Fighting the case, Pandey claimed that none of the 105 witnesses examined by the court had named him and that he had no direct or indirect involvement in the case.
“At times, it appears that there is a delay in delivery of justice in our country but eventually the truth does come out. This is good for Gujarat Police… it also shows that the courts are neutral and can take firm decisions,” Pandey told reporters after the judgment.
Shamshad Pathan, the lawyer representing the next of kin of those killed in the shootout, said: “Definitely this is a disappointing verdict. The victims’ side will surely challenge the decision in a higher court.”
He said: “He (Pandey) has the main role in the conspiracy and the court has not taken (into consideration) evidences before it on the basis of which this verdict can be challenged.”