A special court of the Central Bureau of Investigation in Ahmedabad on Tuesday rejected the anticipatory bail application of Additional Director General of Gujarat Police Prithvi Pal Pandey, paving the way for his arrest in the 2004 fake encounter case of Ishrat Jahan and three others.
Special CBI judge Gita Gopi rejected the anticipatory bail application of Pandey, who had gone underground for a few months after his name surfaced in the encounter case.
The court had declared him proclaimed absconder then.
The special court was hearing his application afresh on the directions of the Gujarat High Court which had restrained CBI from arresting the senior IPS officer till August 6.
The 1982-batch IPS officer was Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime), Ahmedabad, when Mumbai-based Ishrat, her friend Javed Shaikh, alias Pranesh Pillai, and their associates Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were gunned down by Crime Branch sleuths on June 15, 2004 on the city outskirts.
The CBI had named seven Gujarat police officers including Pandey in the charge sheet filed last month in the case. The charge sheet had termed the encounter to be fake and had also held that it was a joint operation between Gujarat Police and Intelligence Bureau.
Earlier, Pandey's lawyer Nirupam Nanavati had argued that CBI has been chasing Pandey and wanted to send him behind the bars by hook or by crook.
CBI's branding of his client as a proclaimed absconder (in the charge-sheet of Ishrat case) was totally illegal as Pandey appeared before the concerned court as per the orders of the Supreme Court, Nanavati had said.
"It is not an error or mistake. It is a deliberate design so as to deprive Pandey of any discretionary order from seeking justice," he said.
"CBI does not want to humiliate only my client (alone) but they want to humiliate the entire police brass of Gujarat", he added.
Contending that there was no material against Pandey, Nanavati said he was acting on IB inputs and if IB inputs were to be questioned, there may be a serious law and order problem in the country.
However, CBI counsel Ejaz Khan had refuted the charges by saying that the investigation agency had taken over the Ishrat case only on the directions of the Gujarat High Court.
"It is mischievous to term this as (result of) political rivalry. We have not come here as a political rival to any one. We are investigating the case on the directions of the Gujarat High Court," Khan argued.
Khan said the act committed by some of the accused police officials was "beyond the imagination of a fiction writer".
Rubbishing the claim that the probe against Pandey had some ulterior motive, Khan said, "He chose a wrong way which does not befit a senior police officer. He approached all forums for quashing FIR, staying his arrest, among other prayers. He should have come before a judicial officer and marked his presence."
City Crime Branch had in 2004 claimed that the four were terrorists, on a mission to kill Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.