The report of the Supreme Court appointed HS Bedi committee investigating the police encounters in Gujarat state between 2002 and 2006 has not found any evidence of involvement by the state government or high officials at that time. According to a report in the Economic Times, the report also states that there was no systematic targetting or religious angles involved in those encounters either.
As per the report, the committee stated before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, “There was no pattern or religious angle or systematic targeting of minorities in these encounters. In fact, people killed were from different communities and a majority of them had criminal records”. It also added, “There were also cases of deaths of Hindus and Sikhs. These cases were of individuals who came from Kerala, Garhwal, UP, and MP, and a local Sikh from Gujarat was also killed.”
The HS Bedi committee report also clears senior police officer DG Vanzara of any involvement in fake encounters. Though it mentions that he “tried to sidetrack the investigations”.
However, the report mentions that three of the encounters during the 2002-06 period were fake. The committee report mentions that as per evidence and witness statements, three individuals named Samir Khan, Haji Ismail, and Kasim Jaffer were killed in fake encounters.
It is notable here that in 2012, an SC bench comprising of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Desai had appointed retired SC judge Justice HS Bedi as the chairman of the committee investigating all encounter deaths in Gujarat from 2002-06. The SC order had come after journalist BG Verghese and lyricist Javed Akhtar approached the top court with two PIL seeking an independent probe into the encounter deaths.
The PILs, filed by Prashant Bhushan, had alleged that there were 22 fake encounters in Gujarat between 2002-06. Javed Akhtar’s PIL also reportedly alleged that the same police team that killed Sohrabiddin and his wife Kausar, was involved in the fake encounter of Sameer Khan too.
A special CBI court had recently acquitted all accused in the Sohrabuddin case, stating that there is no substantial evidence to suggest that the encounters were fake and done through a conspiracy.
The Gujarat government had requested the apex court not to share the report with the petitioners, which the SC bench led by CJI Gogoi declined. Advocate Rajat Nair, who was representing the Gujarat state in the solicitor general’s absence, stated that sharing the report with the media will prejudice the case against the accused as well as the victims.
The apex court reportedly replied that it is yet to decide on accepting the 225-page report but it can be shared.