Ishrat case: CBI Court orders top Gujarat IPS officer’s arrest

Ahmedabad: A Special CBI Court on  2 May ordered the issuance of arrest warrant against top Gujarat police officer P P Pande, an accused in the 2004 alleged fake encounter of Mumbai teenager student Ishrat Jahan and three others.

The 1980-batch IPS officer of Gujarat cadre is currently Additional DGP (Crime) and he was Ahmedabad’s Joint Commissioner of Police at the time of the encounter.

Judge Gita Gopi, while granting the prayer of issuing warrant on a revision application filed by CBI, held that “looking at the circumstances of the case, the court’s interference is necessary in the interest of justice.”

Setting aside the order of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (ACJM), Ahmedabad, rejecting the CBI plea seeking arrest warrant against Pande, the Judge observed, “there is apparent error in the order under revision. Observations made in the order are not in compliance with the provisions of law and that order is found (to be) illegal and incorrect.”

On April 25, ACJM S H Khutwad, while rejecting the CBI plea, had held, “Investigating Officer has powers to arrest, if he wishes, as offence alleged is a cognisable offence.”

In its revision application praying for issuance of arrest warrant against Pande under CrPC Section 73 (warrant may be directed to any person), CBI had claimed the IPS officer has been evading CBI and it has become necessary for the agency to seek court’s help to take him in custody.

“We issued two summons, on April 22 and 24 respectively, but he did not respond. When we went to his residence at Ahmedabad his adult son refused to give us information about Pande’s whereabouts and his official mobile phone is also not reachable,” CBI counsel L D Tiwari had argued while praying for the Special Court’s directions to ACJM to issue arrest warrant.

The CBI was asked to take over the case in December 2011. The agency says it has been trying to interrogate Mr Pande, but can’t locate him.

Ishrat (19), a college student from Mumbra town near Mumbai, along with Javed Shaikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjadali Akbarali Rana and Zeeshan Johar, was killed by Ahmedabad Crime Branch in an “encounter” near here on June 15, 2004. Police had then claimed they were “terrorists” on a mission to assassinate Chief Minister Narendra Modi. However, relatives of the deceased had claimed they were killed by the police in a staged gunfight. Half a dozen policemen have been arrested in connection with the encounter. Later enquiries established that the police had lied, and had shot the group in the hope of being rewarded with medals and promotions. The state government has reportedly told the agency that ADG Pande has been on sick leave for a week.