By Rana Ayyub
IN AN ideal world and in ideal circumstances, Geeta Johri, Gujarat’s first woman IPS officer could have been a role model for women who aspired to be a part of the Services. An officer who did not think twice before barging into the den of Gujarat’s most feared don Latif Khan, leading a handful of police constables and arresting his henchman Sharif Khan. After she became a household name in Gujarat, tales of bravado and grit did the rounds. For, not many officers travel in an autorickshaw and place the barrel of a gun on the forehead of a gangster. But neither is there an ideal world nor did luck favour this 1982 batch Gujarat cadre officer.
Geeta Johri, 52, has again caught the bull by the horns by blaming the CBI for pressurising her into naming politicians like Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case. In a police career spanning 28 years, taking her to almost every prominent district of Gujarat in pivotal positions, controversy is not new for her. Earlier this year, she was forced to quit the Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted to probe the Gujarat riots amid allegations of being allotted land by the state government at throwaway rates.
Geeta Johri was to be the CBI’s trump card in the investigations into the Sohrabuddin case, for she was part of the SIT formed to look into the encounters in 2007. But she complained of political pressure hindering her investigation. Why is the officer who was to be the most crucial witness in the Sohrabuddin case changing course? An internal CID report detailing her flip-flops said that the point that needed to be probed was why a departmental inquiry into serious charges of corruption against her husband, an officer of the Indian Forest Service, was diluted in October 2008. It hinted that she did this to save his skin.
Anil Johri is a north Indian serving in Gujarat, against whom a case of violation of the Official Secrets Act was filed in 2000. The case was being investigated by the CBI, coincidentally by Rajnish Rai, the officer with whom she would be crossing paths again in the Sohrabuddin investigation. A departmental inquiry was started against Anil in June 2005 under then Chief Secretary PK Das, but he went on leave after that. He rejoined the investigation in 2007.
In a similar way, Geeta Johri had built a case against top cops DG Vanzara, Rajkumar Pandian and Dinesh MN in the Sohrabuddin case. Sensing trouble, Geeta was removed by the political masters and Rajnish Rai was brought in. But he, much against their expectation, arrested the trio.
Again, Geeta was reinstated into the investigation but her interim report submitted in September 2008 claimed that the third person travelling with Sohrabuddin was Kalimuddin, not Tulsi Prajapati, a report for which she was chastised by the Supreme Court. At this juncture, in July 2009, the Chief Secretary of Gujarat who was supervising her husband’s case, gave a clean chit to all the forest officials involved. Many fellow officers claim that Geeta, awarded the Police Medal for meritorious service in 1998, could not be corrupted with money, but power was a weakness. She was rewarded with the position of the Commissioner of Rajkot Police and also nominated for the President’s Police Medal for distinguished service in 2009, when she had not even figured in the list put up by the DGP. Now, suggests a senior Supreme Court lawyer, “Her affidavit in the SC reads very similar to the arguments made by Ram Jethmalani in the SC, especially his remarks on Justice Tarun Chatterjee.”