AHMEDABAD:The Gujarat government Tuesday maintained that Mumbai collegian Ishrat Jahan and three of her friends killed in a 2004 shootout were terrorists and said it would challenge a report of a metropolitan magistrate that said the police shot them in cold blood.
A day after the report by Ahmedabad metropolitan magistrate S.P. Tamang that the police faked it all as a firefight, state government spokesperson and cabinet minister Jay Narayan Vyas told reporters that the inquiry report was "bad in law and so the state government will challenge it".
The government also maintained that the four were Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) operatives who had been tasked to kill Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and organise terror attacks in India -- something the police team involved in the crime had all along claimed.
He said this was because the sections of the criminal procedure code used in the inquiry were not tenable with the case.
Vyas wondered how could the magistrate proceed with an inquiry in the case when there was already a high-level police investigation ordered by the Gujarat High Court on the very day -- Aug 13, 2009, -- that had been given time till Nov 30 this year.
He said: "Justice Tamang's report is bad in law, and it overstepped to an extent because the high court had already ordered a high-level inquiry in it. It was prudent that he had not proceeded with the inquiry."
"But he had to, what was such a tearing hurry that 13th August you start the investigation and also concluded it by September 7th," Vyas wondered.
On June 15, 2004, Ishrat from Mumbra in Thane district and three of her friends, Javed Ghulam Sheikh alias Pranesh Kumar Pillai, Amjad Ali alias Rajkumar Akbar Ali Rana and Jisan Johar Abdul Gani, were shot dead by Ahmedabad Police's Crime Branch (Detection) on the outskirts of the city.
Police claimed that the four were members of a Lashkar-e-Taiba module and were on a mission to kill Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
The metropolitan magistrate's inquiry report says there was no shootout between the four youngsters and the police. The report, released to the media by lawyer Mukul Sinha, says the four people were kidnapped from Mumbai June 12, 2004, and killed in cold blood two days later, victims of extrajudicial killing by law enforcers.
Sinha is the advocate of Shamima, Ishrat's mother, whose petition led the high court to constitute a police team, headed by Additional Director General of Police Pramod Kumar to look into the incident.
The Gujarat government spokesman said magistrate Tamang's inquiry was bad in law for two reasons.
"One, the process of natural justice demands that the accused should be given an opportunity to reply but no such opportunity was given. Secondly, since the high court had constituted a team and gave time to it till November, it was not fair that any other judicial officer also inquired into the case," Vyas said.
He sought to cite an affidavit of the union ministry of home affairs filed in the Supreme Court to insist that the four people killed in the incident had links with terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Reading out from the affidavit, Vyas said a mouthpiece of LeT, Ghazwa Times had said soon after the encounter that Ishrat Jahan was an activist of the terror outfit.
"It is submitted that the Union of India in 2004 received specific inputs to suggest that LeT was planning to carry out terror atatcks at various places in India, including in Gujarat. The LeT was to carry out assassination of some national and state leaders," Vyas read from the affidavit that he said was filed Aug 6 this year.
He said Ishrat and Javed, who had converted to Islam after marrying her, were both terrorists and other two persons were Pakistani nationals. Quoting from the home ministry affidavit, Vyas said: "They entered India with a clear cut focus and mandate to organise terrorist attacks in Gujarat and Maharashtra."