Ahmedabad: Gujarat high court on Friday reserved till July 1 its order on a petition by top Gujarat police officer PP Pandey seeking quashing of an FIR filed against him in the IshratJahan encounter case even as the CBI described him as the "mastermind" of the 2004 episode.
According to CBI, which is probing the case, Pandey, additional DGP, acted like action hero Rambo in the entire operation. Ishrat, a 19-year-old Mumbai girl, and her three associates were gunned down by Ahmedabad crime branch, which had then claimed they were "terrorists".
Justice Harsha Devani, after hearing all sides in the case, fixed July 1 for giving her verdict on the plea.
The 1982-batch IPS officer, declared an absconder by the CBI court here on June 21, has claimed in his petition that he had merely passed on the intelligence inputs that two of the four people killed in the encounter were "terrorists" and planning to enter the city to kill the chief minister.
Countering Pandey's argument that his role in the case was limited to providing intelligence inputs, additional solicitor general Indira Jaising claimed that Pandey was the 'mastermind' behind the killing of the four people.
"He is the mastermind behind the whole encounter. He was a conduit...he received inputs, passed it to his subordinates and arranged everything...in fact he was in total control of the operation. He actually acted as Rambo," she alleged.
The FIR, filed by the Central agency, alleges that Pandey provided the "so-called crucial intelligence inputs" to the fellow officers which said that Ishrat, a college student, and three others were LeT operatives and were on a mission to assassinate chief minister Narendra Modi.
Pandey, as joint commissioner of police, Ahmedabad, was heading the crime branch when Ishrat, Javed Shaikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjadali Akbarali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were killed in the encounter near here on June 15, 2004.
Opposing the plea, Jaising, who represented the CBI, also challenged the maintainability of the petition.
"A division bench of this high court had in December 2011, upon reading the final report of the SIT, directed the registration of a fresh FIR in this case and ordered that CBI will be conducting investigation," she said.
"Investigation is almost complete and CBI is in the process of filing chargesheet. In these circumstances unless the order of the division bench is set aside, no petition or prayer to quash the FIR is maintainable and it should be dismissed," Jaising argued.
Despite being a high-ranking officer of the state he has been evading CBI, she said. "Here we are not dealing with a matrimonial case. Pandey, who is a high-ranking IPS officer, stands here as a proclaimed offender. If he does not obey the law how can ordinary citizens are expected to obey?"
Rejecting Pandey's argument that there was no material against him, Jaising said, "when there is a case of criminal conspiracy we never find any direct evidence, its always circumstantial evidence. Here we have evidence that the four people, who were killed on that fateful day, were in prior custody of crime branch, Ahmedabad that was headed by Pandey."
Pandey's petition was also opposed by lawyers of Shamima Kausar, mother of Ishrat, and Gopinath Pillai, father of Javed Shaikh, another victim.
Earlier, advocate Mihir Thakore, appearing for Pandey, defended his client's conduct of not responding to CBI summons, asking him to appear before the agency.
"It is not an unnatural conduct when we are moving from one court to another seeking justice. My not remaining present can not be construed as I am an absconder.
"Even innocent people run away from law out of fear of being falsely implicated in a criminal case. It is a natural instinct of self-preservation," he Thakore argued.
"This quashing petition needs to be considered in the light of facts contained in FIR and there is nothing against Pandey in it," he added while urging the court to allow his client's plea.
A special investigation team, set up by the high court, had concluded in 2011 that Ishrat and others were killed in a fake encounter. After this, CBI took over the probe in the high-profile case in which nearly two dozen policemen, including IPS officers, are in the dock.