The Central Bureau of Investigation on Saturday told a Gujarat court that the state government has refused sanctions to prosecute the three accused police officials in the 2004 Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case, reported The Times of India. The three accused in the case are Indian Police Service officer GL Singhal, State Reserve Police Commando Anaju Chaudhary and retired Director General of Police Tarun Barot.

In June 2004, Jahan and three others were killed in an alleged encounter with security forces on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. The state police had claimed that the four had links with terrorist groups and were conspiring to kill Narendra Modi, who was Gujarat’s chief minister at that time. However, a special investigation team set up by the High Court had found the encounter to be fake. After this, the case was transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation.

The three accused and retired officer JG Parmar’s lawyer have now filed applications before the court seeking “dropping of proceedings for want of requisite sanction”, reported PTI. Parmar had died during the course of hearing.

“The court has fixed March 31 for further proceedings,” said Brijrajsinh Jhala, advocate representing Singhal.

Unidentified officials told The Times of India that refusal of the permission suggests that the Gujarat government believes that the alleged encounter was carried out by the police in the line of duty. In October, the court had also observed that the police officers had “acted in their official duties”, so the CBI needs to obtain sanction to prosecute the accused. Under Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, sanction is required for prosecuting government servants for anything done while discharging official duty.

If the court accepts the plea of the accused, the case might be immediately disposed as there will be no accused left in the case. The CBI had named seven accused in the case – Singhal, Barot, Chaudhary, Parmar, former police officers DG Vanzara, NK Amin and PP Pandey. Commando Mohan Kalasava had died by the time the central agency filed its chargesheet. Vanzara, Amin and Pandey were earlier discharged from the case.

Singhal, who was then the assistant commissioner of police of the Ahmedabad crime branch, was arrested by the CBI in 2013. However, in May 2014, he was reinstated and promoted as the deputy inspector general.