Protect witnesses in Ishrat Jahan case, says court

Friday, January 28, 2011

GANDHINAGAR - The Gujarat High Court Friday said that the Ishrat Jahan staged shootout case was of national importance and directed that police witnesses should be placed where they would not be working as subordinates to officials linked to the case.

Appointing senior advocate Yogesh Lakhani as amicus curiae on the plea of Karnail Singh, the chief of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the killing of Mumbai college student Ishrat Jahan in an alleged staged shoot-out, the court also asked the probe team to behave professionally.

The development came after a member of the SIT, Satish Verma brought to the fore the difference of opinions among the SIT members.

A bench comprising Justices Jayant Patel and Abhilasha Kumari directed the SIT members not to behave as amateurs and be disciplined. The bench in an oral order passed Friday said that the decisions shall be taken in unanimity and acted upon accordingly.

The court however said that if there was a difference of opinion among the members then the opinion of majority would be acted upon. But it made it clear that the opinion of minority in taking the decision shall be considered and taken note of.

Karnail Singh had sought appointment of amicus curiae for the SIT to deal with the legal issues that may arise during the investigation. He Friday addressed the court on the issue of difference of opinions.

Singh told the court that the affidavit filed by Verma earlier was painful to him. He said there was no chain of command, no code of conduct or defined powers and responsibilities among the members of the SIT.

Verma, however, in his reply posed a question to the court that whether an investigation should be a controlled investigation or a dynamic and progressive one.

The court agreed to Verma’s contention and said, “This investigation cannot be controlled from Delhi.”

The court opined that the case was of national importance and for handling such case and to keep up the spirit of its order, the members must have the team spirit.

Doubting that the pressure was built on members, the court said, “It seems that external forces are working within the SIT.”

For protection of witnesses working with the police force, the court has directed the government to place them where they would not be working as subordinates of those cops who are directly or indirectly involved in the alleged staged shootout case.

The court has directed the SIT to file progress report in two months and posted the matter on April 8.

Filed under: Terrorism

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