Thursday, May 3, 2012

Is Modi Govt Toying With SC Order On Fake Encounters?

TOIA 29APR2012

One STF, two bosses!
Ahmedabad: Who should the special task force (STF), formed to probe
allegations of fake police encounters in Gujarat, take orders from?
Should they report to Justice H S Bedi, appointed by the Supreme
Court, or Justice K R Vyas who was appointed by the state government?

Unhappy with the Narendra Modi government’s decision to appoint
Justice Vyas as the chief, the SC had asked Justice Bedi to replace

Strangely, however, the Gujarat government has not yet cancelled
the notification that appointed Justice Vyas, creating a situation
where there are two chiefs for one STF. Home department sources said
Justice Bedi has been given a specific job of investigating 17
encounters that took place between 2003 and 2006. Justice Vyas would
probe all other encounters, including those that may happen in future.

For instance, four Kashmiri youths who were killed in an encounter
in Ganga Row House in the Vatva area of Ahmedabad in 2006 has not been
included in Justice Bedi’s list.

Legal experts feel the state government is playing with fire
despite SC’s clear directive. “The appointment of Justice Vyas was
held annulled by the Supreme Court when it asked Justice Bedi to probe
the encounters,” says advocate Anand Yagnik, who represents the father
of Sameer Khan Pathan who was killed in an suspect encounter in
October 2002.

“Any effort by the state government to continue with Justice Vyas
amounts to defiance of the SC order, if the order is taken in its true
letter and spirit.”

The state government invited SC’s ire after it appointed Justice
Vyas in February in place of retired SC judge M B Shah, who was
reluctant to head the STF. While appointing Justice Bedi, SC had said
it wanted the supervision to be done by “someone whose integrity is
completely beyond any question”.

“We deem it fit to request Justice Bedi to head and monitor the
investigation of the cases of alleged fake encounter enumerated in the
writ petitions,” a bench of justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash
Desai had said.

The Gujarat government was asked to extend all facilities to
Justice Bedi “to enable him to make meaningful, effective
investigation into the cases”. The STF was formed on basis of two PILs
filed in 2007 by journalist B G Verghese and lyricist Javed Akhtar
after senior cops including D G Vanzara were arrested for the
Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter. The petitions listed 17 police
encounters and sought an independent probe.