On Sunday, 28 February 2016, the former home secretary GK Pillai alleged that during his tenure as home minister, P Chidambaram rewrote a 2009 affidavit submitted to the Gujarat High Court on the death of Ishrat Jahan, a 19-year-old resident of Mumbai who was killed in 2004 in Gujarat. At the time, the police had stated that Jahan, along with three others, was suspected of plotting to kill then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. Pillai alleged that Chidambaram had “bypassed him” and excluded the proof of Jahan’s alleged ties to the militant organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba from the affidavit. Chidambaram refuted Pillai’s claim. “It is disappointing that the former home secretary who is equally responsible wants to distance himself from that now,” he said. Earlier today, the Parliamentary Affairs minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader M Venkaiah Naidu alleged that the decision to change the affidavit was taken at the “political level” by Chidambaram, then prime minister Manmohan Singh and the Congress president Sonia Gandhi. “The entire plan was to stop Narendra Modi, defame Narendra Modi, implicate Narendra Modi,” Naidu said. Following Pillai’s remarks, yesterday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a plea to quash the criminal cases against the Gujarat police officers accused of being involved in Jahan’s death.
While reporting for his 2012 profile of Modi, “Emperor Uncrowned,” Vinod K Jose, the executive editor of The Caravan, attended the Gujarat High Court judgment on the Jahan case, in 2011. In this excerpt from the profile, Jose recalls how the court set aside the claims of the Gujarat Police that the encounter was genuine, and asked to prosecute the perpetrators and file a fresh case against them. Despite the state’s insistence, the court referred the matter to the Central Bureau of Investigation.
In November 2011, Gujarat High Court issued its judgment in one fake encounter—the killing in 2004 of a teenaged girl named Ishrat Jahan and three other young men. The police declared the four were terrorists linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba on a mission to kill Narendra Modi; the families of the dead insisted they were innocent, and filed a case challenging the allegations.
The courtroom was packed with lawyers, police, politicians and local journalists, and I stood by the second row, behind the defence and prosecution lawyers. There was complete silence as the two judges entered and addressed Kamal Trivedi, the advocate general for the state of Gujarat. Justice Jayant Patel delivered the verdict: “The encounter is not found to be genuine. It is a unanimous judgment from both of us. A fresh case has to be filed, prosecuting those who are accused.”
Patel then addressed Trivedi and the lawyer representing the victims, Mukul Sinha, and said, “Now the court would like to hear from the counsels, which agency would you prefer to investigate the matter?”