The panel, headed by former SC judge H.S. Bedi, was set up by the Supreme Court to probe 22 encounter deaths in the state between 2002 and 2007.
New Delhi: A Supreme Court-appointed committee to investigate alleged fake encounters in Gujarat between 2002 and 2007 has submitted its final report to the court in a sealed cover, even as one witness after another continues to turn hostile in the alleged fake encounter of Sohrabuddin Sheikh.
The committee, headed by former Supreme Court judge H.S. Bedi, was appointed by the apex court in 2012 to probe 22 encounter deaths in the state when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was chief minister of Gujarat. Top political and police brass in the state were under the scanner for the alleged fake encounters.
The court had also asked the committee to look into whether the encounters showed a pattern that people from the minority community were targeted as terrorists.
The panel was set up after lyricist and poet Javed Akhtar, journalist B.G. Verghese and activist Shabnam Hashmi had moved the court seeking a judicial probe against the Gujarat government.
Bedi mum, sources say questions raised
Since five of the 22 cases were sub-judice, Bedi decided against investigating them. These cases included the Ishrat Jahan and Sohrabuddin Sheikh cases.
“I submitted my final report to the court in a sealed envelope towards the end of last month,” Bedi told ThePrint, but declined to discuss the contents of his report.
However, sources told ThePrint that the committee has raised questions over the police claims in at least five of the 17 deaths, including those of Kasim Jafar Hussain, Joginder Singh, Samir Khan Pathan and Sadiq Jemal.
According to sources, the apex court could schedule a hearing in the matter early next month, when it would also deal with the report.
While investigating the deaths, Bedi received testimonies from several witnesses, including families of those killed in the encounters as well as police officers.
While Kasim and Sadiq were in police custody at the time of the encounter in 2003, according to the Gujarat Police’s own version, Samir Pathan was allegedly a Jaish-e-Mohammad operative plotting to attack Narendra Modi and other VIPs.
Initially, the court had granted the committee three months to report. However, it was granted several extensions along the way.
Its functioning was delayed since many case files had to be translated to English from Gujarati for Bedi to evaluate them. The committee filed at least seven interim reports before the apex court in the interim.
What happens next?
Since a Special Task Force which was assisting the committee has already given a clean chit to several IPS officers accused in these alleged fake encounters, it remains to be seen if action, if any, will be initiated after the committee’s final report is examined by the apex court.
Significantly, the STF head – Gujarat IGP A.K. Sharma – was himself named in the Samir Khan Pathan encounter.
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