Ahmedabad: Within days of taking charge as chairman of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the Ishrat Jahan encounter killing case, Satyapal Singh On Friday requested the Gujarat High Court that he be relieved from duty citing differences of opinion between two other SIT members.
Singh said there was difference of opinion between the other two members of the SIT -- Mohan Jha and Satish Verma -- and said it would be difficult to rely on them for investigations.
Singh, who had taken charge as chairman of SIT on June 18, gave a letter to the bench of Justice Jayant Patel and Justice Abhilasha Kumari saying he also faced language problem because of his inability to clearly comprehend Gujarati.
"It is not possible for me to clearly understand and comprehend Gujarati language in which most of the statements of witnesses and police officers are recorded", Singh added.
Reacting to Singh's letter, Justice Patel said language barrier should hardly be any reason for opting out of the investigations.
Citing the case of the Supreme Court-appointed SIT to look into some cases of the 2002 Godhra riots case, Justice Patel said though its chief R K Raghvan and member A K Malhotra did not know Gujarati, they haven't raised such a point.
He also gave the example of CBI joint director P Kandaswamy heading the probe into Soharabudin Sheikh fake encounter killing case.
Justice Patel further said this creates an impression that the probe in the case is progressing in a "soft-peddling manner" (tardy pace).
The court, however, remarked, that if the officer has no zeal to work, then he needs to be relieved. The High Court criticized Singh for leaking the content of his application to the media.
It also asked the Union Government to file a reply on Singh's letter if they would like to relieve him or not within a week.
The court further said that if the Centre decides to relieve Singh, it should suggest names of other officers who could take up the chairmanship of the SIT.
Further hearing in the matter has been kept on July 16.
During the hearing, the SIT submitted the progress report in the encounter case along with the request that it needs more time as there has been less progress in investigation in absence of the chairman.
The High Court had appointed Singh as head of the special investigation team (SIT) on May 12 after the then chairman Karnal Singh expressed a desire to be excused from the probe following his posting in Mizoram.
Mumbai's college student Ishrat, along with three others -- Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar -— was killed in a police encounter on June 15, 2004.
After the encounter, the city crime branch had claimed that the deceased were Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists who came to the state to kill Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
The probe into the case has been marred by obstacles ever since the Gujarat High court ordered formation of SIT last year to investigate the genuineness of the encounter based on the petition of Ishrat's mother Shamima Kausar and Gopinath Pillai, father of Javed Sheikh.