Sohrabuddin case: Gujarat rulers trying to throttle investigations

Ahmedabad: Close on the heels of additional director general of Police Geetha Johri's questioning By CBI recently, one thing is clearly emerging that Gujarat political leadership is putting all pressure on Johri to keep mum on Sohrab encounter. Geetha Johri, the first woman IPS officer of Gujarat, may yet play a critical role in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case.

Generally, since not a leaf stirs in Gujarat without the consent of CM Modi, Johri cannot speak against her political boss. Johri tried to cover up the issue by damage control operation in her second investigation report submitted to Gujarat State police. … CBI reportedly has evidence of Modi's direct involvement in Sohrab cover up through a file noting in which he gave instructions on the posting of police officers Abhay Chudasama and N. K. Amin to the SIT, headed by Johri, just when it was about to investigate a crime in which the two were suspects. Actually, this was done to keep track of the direction of the investigation so that critical information could be leaked.

Incidentally, Prajapati was killed in fake encounter just a day before Geetha Johri was supposed to question him. She was under great pressure to take probe in a wrong direction.

First time when Geetha Johari handled the Sohrabuddin encounter case, she brought the evidence before the people and informed Supreme Court of India also. But just like a Hindi movie, when she investigated the same Sohrabuddin case second time she tried to save the high profile people.

It is reported that she is said to have been brought under pressure by Modi government using the stick of a corruption case against her husband Anil Johari, an IFS, also posted in Gujarat.

The first phase of investigations, carried out by CID (crime) under her supervision, was path-breaking. Based on evidence gathered by her, deputy inspector general of police, CID (crime), Rajnish Rai, had arrested three IPS officers – DG Vanzara, Rajkumar Pandian and Dinesh MN. However, in the second phase, when investigations were handed back to Johri, the direction changed perceptibly. The loopholes were so evident in the second phase of investigations that the Supreme Court sharply criticized her handling of the probe before handing over the case to CBI in January 2010.

Not only in the Sohrabuddin case, Johri drew flak in another case too. She was one of the three top Gujarat police officials to be appointed by SC in its Special Investigation Team to probe the 2002 communal riots of Gujarat. But, SC recently directed her, along with another IPS officer Shivanand Jha, to keep away from SIT till the matter was decided by SC.

Rajnish Rai, who was then SP of CBI, Gujarat, investigated the case. Rai raided the residence of Anil Johri who was then posted in Vadodara while Geetha in Surat. On January 21, 2004, the accused forest officers were issued show cause notices by CBI.

However as the case was being heard, the state government told the court that it had initiated a departmental inquiry against these officials. After this statement, the petitioner and former chief minister Chhabildas Mehta took back his application and CBI withdrew by filing a closure application. Court granted CBI permission to withdraw the case on May 29, 2005.

Geetha filed her interim report to the Supreme Court in September, 2006. The departmental inquiry against Anil, husband of Geetha was initiated on June 17, 2005, under supervision of additional chief secretary PK Das. The case did not make any progress. The file was kept pending till June 13, 2007. Again file started making progress .In his final report on July 3, 2009, Das exonerated all the forest officials involved.

Geetha was re-inducted into the Sohrab investigations and then the probe went astray. She submitted her last report to the SC in September 2008, which tried to hide or change the mode of investigation. CBI sends summons to Geetha to question, she appeared before the CBI after receiving the third summon.

BJP ministers, Gulab Chand Kataria and Om Prakash Mathur from the neighbouring BJP-governed state of Rajasthan, have been named in the case. Apparently a CBI witness has claimed that they were paid Rs. 10 crores to eliminate Sohrabuddin by RK Patni, the owner of RK marbles who was also close to some Indian National Congress leaders. Kataria, who visited Gujarat to lobby for the release of Rajasthan police officer Dinesh MN in 2007, has denied the charges.

In the petition, Geeta Johri said the CBI had pressurized different police officers including her to name political figures like Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case. She says, when she did not oblige to this demand of the CBI, the investigative agency framed her in the case. She has also debunked the CBI theory that the third person who was abducted along with Sohrabudin and Kausarbi was Tulsiram Prajapati. Johri says that the third person travelling was Kalimudin, a PWG informer in Andhra Pradesh. She alleges that the AP police was shielding him. In a curative petition filed with the apex court, she has sought the removal of Mr Balwinder Singh, CBI's Special Director who is supervising the investigation into the case, and said he be made a witness in it. The curative petition also challenged the apex court's decision not to expunge adverse remarks made against her in connection with the case.

The curative petition was filed after the Supreme Court had dismissed her petition seeking a review of the judgment in which adverse remarks were made against Ms Johri while handing over the probe into the case to CBI from Gujarat police.