The Supreme Court, on Wednesday, posted the matter, wherein it was monitoring 22 alleged 'fake encounters' conducted by the Gujarat Police between 2002 and 2007, for hearing in January, 2023. The matter was directed to be listed on the Regular Board.
The Solicitor General of India, Mr. Tushar Mehta, apprised a Bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and A.S. Oka that the Monitoring Committee headed by Justice H.S. Bedi, appointed by the Apex Court to supervise the probe of the Special Task Force into the encounters, has filed its report. Mr. Mehta was of the opinion that nothing much survives in the matter.
Justice Kaul pointed out that the only thing that the Court has to now examine on perusal of the report submitted by the Monitoring Committee is whether any directions are required to be passed by it.
"Only thing is whether any directions are required to be passed with respect to the report…We will list the matters to see if any further directions are to be issued w.r.t. the Report."
The Bench noted that the copies of the report have been made available to the parties. It granted liberty to the parties to avail a copy from the Registry, if not received.
The Solicitor General indicated that in the present writ petition, the petitioner has targeted a particular State and for false encounters that were alleged to have taken place during a particular span of time, when a 'certain political party' (BJP) was at the helm of the State of Gujarat.
"...why the encounter of one State was selected and for this particular period."
The petitions were filed by veteran journalist, Mr. B.G. Verghese and poet and lyricist, Mr. Javed Akhtar. Mr. Verghese had passed away in 2014.
Hearing the claim raised by the Solicitor General, Justice Kaul remarked -
"One of the petitioners is a renowned journalist…Why get into all of this now?"
The Solicitor General urged the Bench to consider if public interest can be selective.
"Your lordships may examine, can public interest be selective?"
Justice Kaul said that if the State Government wanted to take recourse to the said argument then they should have done so at the threshold and not at such a mature stage.
"That had to be argued at the threshold, now so much water has flown."
According to the report submitted in January 2019, there is prima facie evidence of foul play in three out of seventeen cases of encounter killings in Gujarat which took place between 2002 to 2007. Justice Bedi recommended prosecution of nine police officers involved in the cases.
It was on March 2, 2012 that the Supreme Court appointed Justice Bedi, a former SC judge, as Chairman of the Monitoring Committee to monitor the investigation carried out by the Special Task Force(STF) constituted by the Gujarat government to investigate the cases of custodial deaths. The report is only regarding the 17 cases which were specifically referred to STF.
In the report, Justice Bedi wholly rejected the police version that one of the encounter victims was a terrorist who had reached Gujarat to assassinate the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi.