Ahmedabad: The Gujarat High Court on Friday relieved Satyapal Singh as chief of Special Investigation Team probing the Ishrat Jahan encounter case and appointed senior IPS officer J V Ramudu as his successor.

Ramudu, a 1981-batch officer of Andhra Pradesh cadre, will be the third IPS officer to head the HC-appointed SIT probing the 2004 encounter of Ishrat, a Mumbai teenager, and three others near here allegedly by Ahmedabad Crime Branch.

A division bench of justices Jayant Patel and Abhilasha Kumari which is hearing the matter also expressed concern over the retraction of statements by some of the witnesses in the case.

During the last hearing, Singh, of Maharashtra cadre, had requested the court to relieve him of his duties. Later, the HC had asked the Centre to give its opinion on Singh's application seeking exemption from the responsibility citing certain reasons.

The Centre on Friday told the court that Singh, named SIT head in May, may be freed of his responsibilities. It had suggested names of three IPS officers - Ramudu, Rajesh Ranjan
of Bihar cadre and R C Arora of Madhya Pradesh cadre – and said one of them may he named as SIT head.

The court had asked the Centre to get the consent of the officers concerned and their respective state governments before suggesting their names.

Assistant Solicitor General Pankaj Champanari informed the court that the consent of Ramudu and the state where he is serving was taken and he is ready to take up the job.

Based on the statement of the Centre's representative, the court relived Singh and appointed Ramudu.