A special CBI court will in all likelihood deliver the verdict in the case of alleged twin fake encounters of notorious criminals Sohrabuddin Shaikh and Tusliram Prajapati and rape-murder of Kausar Bi, on December 21.
Two days after the Prosecution and defence lawyers wrapped up their final arguments, Additional Sessions Judge SJ Sharma — who presides over a special CBI court—noted that he would in all likelihood deliver the judgement on December 21.
“I need around 14 days. I am sure I will finish it by 21st December. If I don’t complete by December 21st, then I will pass the judgement on 24th December…. But I am very sure that I will be able to complete my work by 21st December,” the Judge said.
The alleged fake encounters of notorious gangsters Sohrabuddin and Tulsiram and disappearance of the former’s wife Kausar Bi during 2005-06 had resulted in a major political fallout involving the BJP-ruled Gujarat.
The Prosecution’s case was that Sohrabuddin had connections with Lashkar-e-Taiba and was conspiring to assassinate an “important political leader”, presumably then chief minister and current Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Initially, there were in all 38 accused in the case. Of them, 16 has been discharged — 15 by the special CBI court and one by the Bombay High Court.
The accused discharged in the case include BJP’s current national President and then Gujarat Minister of State for Home Amit Shah, Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chandra Kataria and high-profile Deputy Inspector General DG Vanzara, who headed the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) and known for several encounters, Superintendent of Police Dinesh MN and Superintendent of Police Rajkumar Pandian.
All the IPS officers, arrested for the twin encounters, have been discharged.
In all, 22 accused were tried during the trial. They included two Deputy Superintendents of Police, Senior Inspectors, Inspector, Sub-Inspectors, Assistant Sub-Inspectors, Head Constables and Constables of Gujarat and Rajasthan.
During the course of the trial, 210 witnesses were examined, of which 92 turned hostile.
When the court recorded their statement under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, all the accused had claimed innocence and said they were arrested because of the rivalry among top police officials and other factors stemming then prevailing political situation in Gujarat.
On the last day of final arguments in the case, CBI counsel BP Raju admitted that there had been “lacunae” in the Central agency’s investigation as they took over the case five years after the alleged incidents.
“The Sohrabuddin encounter took place in 2005, while the Tulsiram encounter happened in 2006. We came in picture in 2010,” Raju told the court.
So much so that some key witnesses turned hostile during the trial, weakening the CBI’s case.
On his part, the Judge observed: “I don’t blame CID. I don’t blame CBI. There are statements and witnesses. If they come here and say something else, it’s not your fault. You did your job…..both sides did their job well….your work is over, my work starts now.”
The CBI, however, maintained that they have enough material to prove that both the encounters were genuine. However, the defence counsels in the case stated that the Prosecution had failed to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt.
During the last phase of the trial, a prosecution witness Azam Khan, who too is a criminal under custody, told the court that Sohrabuddin might have had a role in the murder of the then Minister of State for Home Haren Pandya, who he claimed had been killed on March 26, 2003, at the instance of Vanzara.
It may be recalled that Sohrabuddin, a “dreaded criminal”, and his wife Kausar Bi were killed in an alleged fake encounter in November 2004 by the Gujarat Police near Gandhinagar in Gujarat. The case assumed considerable public importance owing to the alleged involvement of some of the high-profile politicians and IPS officers in it.
An aide Tulsiram Prajapati, who was the prime witness to the killings, was arrested by the police but was later killed in an encounter in December 2006 after the law-enforcers claimed he tried to escape from custody.
Later, the police had named 33 persons as accused in the case. Shah, who was Gujarat Home Minister at the relevant time in 2005, the then Home Minister of Rajasthan and several Gujarat IPS officers, lower police officials from both states besides Andhra Pradesh, were among the accused.
Several police officers from Gujarat were among the 33 accused in the “fake” encounters of Sohrabuddin Shaikh, Kausar Bi in November 2005 and Prajapati in December 2006.
The alleged Sohrabuddin fake encounter case was transferred to Mumbai in September 2012 at CBI’s request for fair trial. In 2013, the Supreme Court had clubbed Tulsiram Prajapati’s encounter killing case with that of Sohrabuddin.
In December, 2014, Special CBI Judge MB Gosavi in Mumbai discharged Shah and 16 other co-accused, citing either lack of sanction for prosecution or insufficient evidence against them.