Justice HS Bedi inquiry report on Gujarat encounters has found evidence of custodial killings in the deaths of Sameer Khan, in October 2002, Haji Ismail, in October 2005, and Kasim Jafer, April 2006
ALMOST sixteen-year after Sameer Khan was shot dead by Gujarat police, a report submitted by a former Supreme Court judge, Harjit Singh Bedi has concluded that the branded terrorist was killed in a fake encounter.
Khan, who was in his 20s when he was killed by the police, was identified as a rickshaw puller by his father. But as per police version, Khan was a terrorist—who had come to Gujarat to assassinate the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court had directed that a copy of the report on the cases of fake shootouts in Gujarat be furnished to the petitioner, noted lyricist Javed Akhtar. The 229-page report was submitted in the Supreme Court in late February 2018 and the Gujarat government had opposed its sharing with the petitioners.
Of the 17 cases that he was monitoring, Justice Bedi found that three persons, Sameer Khan, Haji Ismail and Kasim Jafer, were killed in prime facie fake encounters. Recommending action against nine police officers, he has also sought a compensation of ₹10 lakh to ₹14 lakh to the families of the victims.
The encounter of Sameer Khan in October 2002, was the first after the post-Godhra riots. The police had claimed that Khan had plotted to kill the then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi to avenge killing of Muslims in the riots.
Rejecting the police account, Justice Bedi in his report found it hard to believe that a “dreaded terrorist”, who was on an alleged mission to assassinate the CM, was handcuffed so loosely. He also noted that all courts, including the Supreme Court, had rejected the theory of assassination plot against CM, and had discharged the other 15 men who were accused of being part of the conspiracy.
Justice Bedi rejected the police version that Khan had gone to Pakistan for training in a terror outfit. He further found the police version implausible on following grounds:
- The bullet wounds in the dead body were also found to have blackened, suggesting that firing took place from a close range. He was shot at his chest and head.
- From a reconstruction of the crime scene, it appeared that the deceased and police officers were standing face to face. The bullet trajectory in the head injury suggested that firing was done in a top to bottom angle.
- The police officers were close and towering over the deceased and he was probably sitting on the ground and perhaps cringing for his life.
The report details the “tortuous and agonising” journey of Khan’s father, Sarfaraz Khan, who lost his 30-year job as a driver with the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, when his son was declared an “absconder.”
It recommended that Inspector KM Vaghela and Inspector TA Barot should be prosecuted for murder and other relevant offences. Pertinently, Vaghela was questioned by CBI in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh case, though not charge-sheeted. Barot is an accused in the alleged fake encounter case of Ishrat Jahan.
Haji Ismail was killed by police in cold blood during the wee hours on October 9, 2005 at Mumbai-Ahmadabad highway. Claiming that he was a notorious smuggler, police had maintained that Ismail was travelling to Mumbai when he got killed in retaliatory action after he fired at the police. Justice Bedi, however, found police version deeply suspicious and hard to believe due to following reasons:
- The five bullet wounds on his body were blackened, showing that he was shot at from a distance of two feet or so.
- There was no sign of nitrite in the hand wash sample of the deceased. This led to the inference that the deceased had not used any fire arm.
- There was nothing on record to show that the deceased was notorious.
“The fact that as many as 20 rounds had been fired at the deceased from almost point blank range are indicative of a cold blooded murder”, the report said and recommended that the officers involved in the case, Inspector KG Erda, PSI LB Monpara, PSI JM Yadav, PSI SK Shah and PSI Prag P Vyas, should be brought to trial for murder and other offences.
Erda was accused in the Gulberg Society massacre case of 2002 and was later acquitted.
Kasam Jafer was taken into custody by Ahmadabad police on April 13, 2006 along with seventeen others, on suspicion of being part of the crime snydicate “Irani Gang”. Next day, his dead body was found near an underbridge. As per police version, Kasam Jafer “disappeared” from the police head quarters building on April 13 night. The police stated that he was hit by a motor vehicle while he was on the run.
Suspecting the police version, deceased’s wife Mariam Jafer filed an application in the High Court. Though the death was supposed to be investigated, but nothing happened. The case became part of the writ petition filed by Javed Akhtar in the Supreme Court after his wife approached Teesta Setalvad.
Justice Bedi again found the police version to be “unbelievable” on the following grounds:
- The police head quarters was a fortress, and it was not possible for a person to escape from the building easily. If the arrested persons belonged to the notorious “Irani Gang”, the police would not have been careless in security.
- No departmental action was taken against constable Ganeshbhai. According to police version, it was the negligence of Ganeshbhai which led to the escape of Jafer.
- Other seventeen persons, who were taken into custody along with Jafer, were not informed about his escape and subsequent death. Rather, police had let them go on April 14 early morning, with a warning that they should not set foot in Gujarat again.
- The post mortem report suggested that Jafer died due to “external and internal injuries shock and hemorrhage”, caused by a “hard and blunt substance”.
- Police were reluctant to inform the relatives and family members of the deceased that he had met with an accidental death.
- There was no evidence to indicate that Jafer and his companions were part of any criminal gang.
The report has recommended prosecution of Sub-Inspector JM Bharwad and constable Ganesh.
c. National Herald