Guj cover to Vanzara a politico-legal scandal

The controversial police officer was released on bail in February 2015 and acquitted in the Sohrabuddin case in 2017, but not in the other cases.

The decision of Gujarat state last Thursday to deny the CBI sanction to prosecute suspended senior police officers D.G. Vanzara (who in an explosive letter of resignation from service, written from prison in September 2013, condemned the "betrayal and treachery" of then BJP general secretary Amit Shah, who had been minister of state for home) and N.K. Amin is an administrative, political and judicial scandal.

Mr Vanzara, who was a DIG of police and headed the anti-terrorism squad (ATS) in Ahmedabad at the time of a series of high-profile police encounters — those of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, Ishrat Jahan, Tulsiram Prajapati and Sadiq Jamal — was arrested by the CID in April 2007. These encounters looked like extra-judicial killings.

The controversial police officer was released on bail in February 2015 and acquitted in the Sohrabuddin case in 2017, but not in the other cases. Last Thursday, the state government denied the CBI special court permission to try him, leading to all the cases being dropped.

Foremost among these was the much-talked-about Ishrat Jahan case in which a 19-year old girl was shot dead in circumstances that appeared to be cold-blooded murder. The manner in which events have panned out, it would seem no one killed the teenager.

Administratively, withholding permission to prosecute uniformed personnel charged with heinous crimes suggests the existence of an unaccountable government which permits those accused of high criminality by a leading organ of the state to roam free.

In his high-voltage letter of resignation, Mr Vanzara called then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi his “God”, but blamed the CM's government for his own woes. In the ten-page letter to the Gujarat Home department, the suspended officer did not once plead his innocence. He insisted that every act that he had committed was government policy.

“I, along with my officers, stood beside this government like a bulwark whenever it faced existential crisis in the past,” the disgraced police officer wrote. He wrote that between the government and the police, there ought to be a relationship of “mutual protection and reciprocal assistance”. It was his grievance that this turned out not to be the case.

He was deeply aggrieved that while Mr Shah had managed to secure his release in the Sohrabuddin encounter case, after being externed by the Supreme Court for two years from Gujarat, the state government had “clandestinely” made efforts to keep him in jail “to save its own skin”. This appears to be the crux of the matter on the political side. If, like Mr Shah himself, Mr Vanzara and others were not discharged from various cases, they would always remain a threat.

But the dead deserve justice. The system needs to be healed. The police personnel can have a fair trial only when the state government's order is challenged and reversed.

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