August 3rd, 2017
A special CBI court on Tuesday cleared former Gujarat top cop D G Vanzara in the alleged 2005 fake encounter cases of Sohrabuddin Shaikh and his associate Tulsiram Prajapati, citing lack of evidence and absence of sanction to prosecute him, reported The Times of India.
The court also discharged M N Dinesh, an IPS officer from the Rajasthan cadre who was also linked to the encounters.
What was the Sohrab, Prajapati encounter case?
There have been contrasting reports on the identity of Sohrabuddin Sheikh – some say he was a police informer turned rogue, some say that he was an extortionist who had angered influential people in the builder lobby in Gujarat and the marble lobby in Rajasthan; while others opine that he was a terrorist.
Sohrabuddin hailed from Jharnia village in Madhya Pradesh, was in his mid-30s and an established criminal.
On 23 November 2005, while he was travelling with his wife, Kauser Bi, from Hyderabad to Sangli in Maharashtra, the Anti-terrorism Squad (ATS) of the Gujarat police stopped his bus and took them away.
The couple was locked at a farmhouse outside Ahmedabad. Three days later, a police team led by Deputy Inspector General (DIG) and former ATS chief, D G Vanzara, too Sohrabuddin away and killed him in an alleged encounter. They claimed that he was a terrorist trying to attack the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
After his death, Kauser Bi went missing. The Gujarat CID later said that she had been killed and her body burnt.
A year later, on 28 December 2006, Sohrabuddin’s partner in crime, Tulsiram Prajapati, was also killed by the Gujarat police in an alleged encounter in Banaskantha. Investigations reveal that he knew about the Sohrabuddin encounter.
The case had been going on since 12 years as it was suspected that the policemen of three states, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan carried out the killing at the behest of political bosses to silence those who knew ‘too much’.
The CBI court’s verdict
The court’s verdict comes two and a half years after BKP chief Amit Shah was granted a similar relief in the case in 2014.
Till now, 15 accused have been cleared of charges, with over 20 still facing trial.
The CBI had charged Vanzara as a key accused in the Sohrabuddin murder conspiracy.
However, in a detailed court order which absolved him of all charges, special judge Sunil J Kumar J Sharma observed, “Considering the quality of material on record and taking into consideration the entire prosecution story, it is clear that there is no prima facie material against the accused to connect him to the abduction followed by killing of Sohrabuddin, Kausar Bi (Sohrabuddin’s wife) and Tulsiram Prajapati.”
It further said that the CBI has relied on statements of witnesses, which were “hearsay” in nature as they had stated facts learnt from other co-accused or somewhere else. “It is seen from the entire record of the case that there is no sufficient evidence on facts to indicate that there was meeting of minds between accused and the other accused to abduct and kill… Even their (witness) statements, do not in any way directly implicate the accused in the fake encounters,” the court observed.
Reacting to the court’s decision, Vanzara was quoted as saying that the ‘truth’ had finally prevailed as the encounters were genuine and not fake. He was eight years behind bars and is still facing murder charges in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Sohrauddin’s brother, Rubabuddin Shaikh, said he had lost faith in the judiciary. “What was the CBI doing all this while,” he asked. He added that the ‘legal’ battle would continue as he would move to a higher court.