Another Transfer On Sohrabuddin Case: Judge Who Questioned CBI's Sincerity Replaced In 3 Weeks
It has been 12 months since Sohrabuddin Sheikh in Gujarat was killed in an alleged fake encounter, yet the controversy surrounding his death refuse to die. Along with the fake encounter, questions were raised regarding the untimely and mysterious death of Justice Brijgopal Harkishan Loya in 2014. Now, another judge, Justice Revati Mohite-Dere who was hearing the case was replaced on February 24.
This replacement comes three weeks after she started hearing the matter on a daily basis. Justice Mohite-Dere will henceforth take care of matters concerning anticipatory bail applications, while Justice N.W. Sambre will deal with all criminal revision applications in her place, reported The Wire.
Who is Justice Revati Mohite-Dere?
On November 29, 2017, when the special Central Bureau of Investigation court in Mumbai passed the order against media reportage of the Sohrabuddin trial, Justice Mohite-Dere was the one to remove the gag order. She said that the ban on covering any part of the proceeding was contrary to the law.
Last week, she also pointed out how the CBI appeared unprepared to conduct the prosecution in the Sohrabuddin and Kauser-bi abduction and murder case in which several policemen from Gujarat are being tried.
She has also pulled up CBI because of its lack of clarity in presenting the prosecutor’s case and failing to protect witnesses who are turning hostile with time. On February 12, she questioned the sincerity with which CBI was conducting the trial. “What protection are you offering to your witnesses? It is your duty to protect the witnesses, so they can depose fearlessly. You can’t file a charge sheet and not give your witness protection,” she said, as reported by Scroll.
Justice Mohite-Dere had pointed out that the CBI had failed to put all evidence on record including the prima facie evidence against those discharged to assess whether the same warranted that they be discharged from the case. “It is the primary duty of a prosecuting agency to place all evidence on record before the court. However, in this case, despite the court’s repeated queries, the CBI has chosen to argue only on the role of the two officials whose discharge it has challenged,” Mohite-Dere had said, according to The Wire.
Many senior lawyers claim “routine” transfers
Senior lawyers said that the replacement might be “routine” and not unusual. Although, they also said that it is unusual that Justice Revati was done hearing arguments from both the sides in the three weeks.
“Although change of roster in a high court is not unusual, if a judge has heard a case for several days, then that case is normally sent to him and kept as a part-heard matter,” said Public interest lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan. “Therefore if this particular case is not kept with her that would certainly be unusual and would make the change of roster appear to be malafide, especially in the light of her scathing observations about the CBI’s conduct,” he added, as reported by Scroll.
CBI judge J T Utpat, who was hearing the fake encounter case initially, was transferred in 2014 after he pulled up BJP President Amit Shah for failing to appear before court for the hearing pertaining to the case. He was replaced by Justice Loya.
Justice Loya died of a mysterious “heart attack” that same year. Now, Justice Revati Mohite-Dere, who heard the case for just three weeks, has been replaced too.