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3 IPS officials arrested for fake encounter
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April 24, 2007 16:39 IST
Last Updated: April 24, 2007 22:37 IST

Three senior Indian Police Service officials, including one from Rajasthan, were on Tuesday arrested by Gujarat Police on a charge of murder for their alleged role in the killing of a man described as a Lashker-e-Tayiba cadre in a fake encounter here in 2005.

Those arrested are Inspector General (border range) D G Vanzara, Superintendent of Police Rajkumar Pandayan of the state intelligence wing, and M N Dinesh, the SP of Rajasthan's Alwar district.

The arrests were made by Criminal Investigations Department (Crime) in connection with the death of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, a Madhya Pradesh-based criminal allegedly killed in a gun battle on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on November 26, 2005 during a joint operation by Gujarat's Anti-Terrorist Squad and Rajasthan Police.

"The three have been arrested on murder charges," Additional Director General of Police (Intelligence) Sudhir Sinha told PTI.

Sheikh's wife Kausar Bano has been missing since the time of his death. After killing Sheikh, police had claimed he was a LeT terrorist on a mission to kill senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, including Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

Vanzara and Pandayan were called to the state police chief's office and arrested in the DGP's presence. Dinesh, who hails from Karnataka, was in Ahmedabad in connection with the probe into the killing and was also arrested.

The Gujarat government had informed the Supreme Court on March 23 that the encounter in which Sheikh was killed was fake. The admission came in response to a petition filed in the apex court by Sheikh's brother Rubabuddin.

Vanzara was chief of the Anti Terrorism Squad at the time of Sheikh's killing while Pandayan was his deputy.

Vanzara, known to be close to Chief Minister Modi, has been regarded as an "encounter specialist" since he was posted in the Crime Branch here and then with the ATS.

Rubabuddin told PTI on phone, "I am very happy with today's developments." Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah should resign on moral grounds, he said.

Referring to Sohrabuddin's background, he said, "He was not such a big criminal that he needed to be killed in an encounter."

Rubabuddin also blamed Gujarat Police for the "mysterious disappearance" of his sister-in-law Kauser.

A senior police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, "The three accused officers were summoned by the police chief thrice in the past week and told that a CID investigation into the encounter had not revealed any proof that Sohrabuddin was a LeT terrorist.

"They were repeatedly told to explain what proof they had that he was a LeT terrorist who had come to Guajrat to target senior BJP leaders and the chief minister, but they did not give any specific reason. Subsequently they were arrested today."

In his petition in the Supreme Court, Rubabuddin said Sohrabuddin and Kausar were picked up by a joint team of Gujarat and Rajasthan Police while travelling to Hyderabad. He claimed Sheikh was killed and Kausar is still missing.

Police personnel involved in the incident had claimed Sohrabuddin was killed near Ahmedabad while trying to flee on a motorcycle. However, a case was registered at Pratapnagar in Rajasthan.

Gujarat CID's report to the Supreme Court said procedures followed by Vanzara and his team clearly indicated foul play.

A human rights advocate in Ahmedabad said there have been 21 police-related killings in Gujarat, most of them involving persons projected as terrorists. A plea has been moved in the Supreme Court to probe all these incidents, he said.

Former IAS officer Harsh Mander, who served in Gujarat and quit after the sectarian violence in the state in 2002, said: "It's very frightening because virtually none (of the people involved in) these cases were captured alive. When they (police) killed someone, they (the dead) always helpfully have all their details, including Pakistani passports, on their bodies."

He said the arrested IPS officials should now face the "legal process."

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