Sohrabuddin Fake Encounter Case: All 22 Accused Acquitted Due To Lack Of Evidence
After months of depositions and hearings, the special Central Board of Investigation (CBI) court in Mumbai has finally given a verdict in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh-Tulsiram Prajapati alleged fake encounter case of 2005 where 22 police officers were accused on December 21. All the 22 cops have been acquitted as the court found that there was a lack of satisfactory evidence to prove conspiracy or murder. A special CBI judge said that circumstantial evidence that they had was not substantial. The CBI court further said that the murders were a result of a political conspiracy, reports NDTV.
On November 2018, Amitabh Thakur, former Chief Investigating Officer with the Central Bureau of Investigation during the alleged fake encounter case of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, told the Special CBI court that the then Gujarat Home Minister Amit Shah and four others had gained both financially and politically as a result of the murders. He further said that the 22 cops who were accused and facing trial were low-rung police officers who had less to do with the murder.
Sohrabuddin Sheikh was a resident of Gujarat, and the State Police claimed his involvement with a terrorist group. After that, along with his wife Kausar Bi, Sheikh was killed in an alleged fake encounter by the Gujarat and Rajasthan Police in November 2005. Tulsiram, who was a close associate of Sohrabuddin, was also allegedly killed in a fake encounter in December 2006.
Amit Shah was allegedly paid Rs 70 lakhs
The Patel brothers, owners of Popular Builders in Ahmedabad alleged that Sohrabuddin and Prajapati were trying to extract money from them. The brothers allegedly paid Amit Shah Rs 70 lakh in instalments, reported LiveLaw. Apart from Amit Shah, former Deputy Inspector-General of the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) DG Vanzara was also allegedly paid Rs 60 lakh to carry out the investigation.
Thakur, who led the team that interrogated Amit Shah, was also asked whether there were any preliminary enquiries against him for misconduct, bribery, threat and fabrication of evidence. He denied the above and further denied allegations that the then CBI Director Ashwini Kumar had asked him to implicate all accused in the case.
Thakur further said that the police officers who are currently facing trial for the case did not have any political or financial gain from the encounter. He said that the current main accused has no motive to kill Sohrabuddin. The 20 accused were working under the directions of superiors Mr Vanzara, Mr Pandiyan, Mr Dinesh and Mr Chudasma, and all of these had been discharged in the case.
Sohrabuddin’s brother’s statement
After a year-long wait and multiple summons, 46-year-old Rubabuddin Shaikh, complainant and brother of Sohrabuddin Shaikh appeared before the court to record his statement. What ensued was a day-long deposition full of drama and contradicting statements.
The major contradiction in his statement was that Tulsiram Prajapati told him that Sohrabuddin and his wife Kausar Bi was killed in front of his eyes in 2005. This fact came out for the first time after 13 years.
In his earlier statements, he claimed that Prajapati told him that Sohrabuddin and his wife were taken away separately to Ahmedabad and Prajapati was taken to Rajasthan. Rubabuddin, who appeared before the court on November 17, said, “Tulsi (Tulsiram Prajapati) ne mujhe bataya ki mere bhai ko uske aankhon ke saamne maara gaya tha (Tulsi told me that my brother was killed in front of his eyes),” reported The Wire.
He claimed that Prajapati told him that when they were travelling from Hyderabad to Sangli on November 23, 2005, they were kidnapped and taken to Disha Farmhouse in Gujarat and Sohrabuddin was killed in front of his eyes.
When the prosecution asked him if Prajapati mentioned why his life was spared at that time, he said, “Usne kaha main Hindu hoon. Police ki Laskhar-e-Taiba waali theory fail ho jaati, agar mujhe bhi saath mai maar dete (He told me, ‘I am a Hindu. If the police were to kill me along with Sohrabuddin, their theory of him being Lashkar-e-Taiba fugitive would have failed’).” At that time, the police claimed that Sohrabuddin was a Lakshar-e-Taiba ally.
Frequently getting emotional during the statement, he said that till date he does not know what happened to his sister-in-law. He said that it was difficult for him to recall 13-year-old incidents as the family had been under pressure due to the death of the elder son in the family.
Rubabuddin is the 208th witness in the case. Most of the other key witnesses in the case have already turned hostile. The case is in the fag-end of the trial and might be concluded in the next two months.
It has been 13 years and yet, the controversy surrounding the case refuses to die. This case was further brought into the limelight with the mysterious death of Justice Brijmohan Loya in 2014. Loya was the special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) judge presiding over the trial of Amit Shah and several top officers. Shah was arrested by the CBI in July 2010 in connection with the alleged staged shooting.
Loya had taken over the trial after Justice JT Utpat, the judge who first heard the trial, was transferred from the CBI special court in mid-2014, in violation of the Supreme Court order which said that the trial be heard by the same judge from start to finish. Loya died on 1 December 2014 of an alleged cardiac arrest. Later the same year, Amit Shah was discharged by the Mumbai special CBI court.
An investigative report in The Caravan in November last year pointed at blatant inconsistencies in the judge’s death, bringing the case back to headlines. Loya’s sister alleged that the then Chief Justice of Bombay high court had offered Loya a bribe of Rs 100 crore in return for a favourable judgement.