AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat high court appointed special investigation team (SIT) probing the Ishrat Jahan encounter case of 2004 has started investigating into the circumstances that led to several witnesses of the case doing a volte-face while investigations were mid-way.
No less than seven witnesses retracted after giving statements to the SIT that proved that the encounter was stage managed. All of them first said that they had seen the four persons - Ishrat, her boyfriend Javed Pillai, and the two others - in police custody before they were gunned down in June 2004, outside the Kotarpur water works.
The retractions generated controversy since the witnesses accused SIT members of forcing them to make the statements. The SIT chairman, additional DGP R R Verma, recently initiated a probe into this aspect of the case. At his behest, IPS officer posted in Delhi, Anshuman Yadav, is now investigating the issue. Yadav is a 1998 batch IPS officer of MP cadre who is now on deputation to the Bureau of Police Research and Development in Delhi.
"Yadav will be scrutinizing cases like that of police constable Moti Desai. Desai was posted in crime branch when the encounter took place. Now he is posted in the city's traffic police department. Initially, Desai had told inspector general of police Satish Verma of the SIT that the four had been gunned down near Kotarpur water works in a fake encounter," said an SIT officer.
Then there is the case of Shivsinh, a police constable who was the wireless operator of deputy superintendent of police (DSP) Narendra Amin. Amin has already been arrested in the Sohrabudddin Sheikh fake encounter case. Initially, the constable claimed that he had accompanied Amin to Vasad near Vadodara from where they had taken custody of Ishrat and Javed. Some officials of Vasad toll booth had said that Ishrat and Javed had been brought by an unmarked car to Vasad and they had seen the couple being whisked away in a police vehicle.
However, now all the witnesses have gone back on their word and have alleged that they were forced to make the statements by SIT members. This has left the SIT with little evidence in this regard.
"Yadav is now probing whether these witnesses were speaking the truth earlier or if there is any substance in claims made by the witnesses after they retracted," said an SIT member.