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SC Seeks Gujarat Govt’s Response to Bedi Committee Report

Vivan Eyben |
The Bedi Committee was tasked with reviewing 22 encounters in Gujarat between 2002 and 2006.
Supreme court of India

A Bench of the Supreme Court comprising Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justice SK Kaul and Justice KM Joseph permitted the Gujarat government to file an affidavit within one week, as to why the contents of the Justice Bedi Committee’s report cannot be shared with the petitioners. The case and report in question pertains to the alleged fake encounters that took place in Gujarat between 2002 and 2006.  According to reports, the Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Tushar Mehta had informed the Court that he had something important to say regarding the report, when the Chief Justice asked him to say it, he requested permission to make his submissions in an affidavit to the Court. The ASG had also requested that the matter be listed in January. However, the Chief Justice did not agree and instead set the next date for December 12.

The committee had submitted its report on February 26 this year after almost a decade since the original petition was filed. At around that time, before the report was filed, The Economic Times had reported that a knowledgeable source told them that there was ‘no evidence of involvement of any high-profile person’.

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The Case

The matter in question was initially filed as a criminal writ petition by BG Verghese and Javed Akhtar in 2007. Verghese passed away in 2014, however, Akhtar still remains a petitioner in the proceedings. Verghese’s plea concerned 21 encounters, and Akhtar’s concerned 1. In 2012, a retired Judge of the Supreme Court, Justice HS Bedi was appointed as the Chairman of the Monitoring Authority of the Special Task Force (STF). The Supreme Court placed the ongoing inquiries by the special investigation teams (SIT) outside the purview of the committee. Namely, the Sohrabuddin-Kauser Bi investigation as well as Tulsiram Prajapati and Ishrat Jahan.

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In July 2013, the committee submitted five status reports, whose copies the Supreme Court ordered to be provided to the petitioners. The next month, Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioners, requested that the Monitoring Authority be assisted by police officers from outside Gujarat in addition to the existing members. However, the Supreme Court left the decision to the Monitoring Authority. In October, the same year, the petitioners informed the Court that the Monitoring Authority was not being provided with English translations of the relevant documents. Despite the Authority existing for a year, it transpired that many documents supplied to the Monitoring Authority were written in Gujarati, a language Justice HS Bedi was not conversant in. In this hearing, the counsel for the State of Gujarat told the Court that the necessary arrangements for translations would be made.

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In January 2017, the Supreme Court dismissed an application to clarify whether the killings of Ganesh Khunte and Magendra Jadav should be once again inquired into. The Gujarat High Court had upheld the killings as a genuine encounter. Finally, after eleven years since the petitions were first filed, the Committee filed its report in February this year.

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