A CBI court asks whether there was investigation on the reason why Sohrabuddin Sheikh was linked to the Lashkar-e-Taiba in the Gujarat police FIR.
Mumbai: Noting that the initial investigation into Sohrabuddin Sheikh’s alleged fake encounter, before the CBI took over the case in 2010, did not mention his aide Tulsiram Prajapati’s presence at the suspected abduction site, a special CBI court has asked if this has ever been investigated.
The court was hearing the prosecution’s final arguments in the politically charged case.
Sheikh and his wife Kausarbi were allegedly abducted while on a bus from Hyderabad to Sangli, Maharashtra, in November 2005.
The CBI, which took over the case on the instruction of the Supreme Court, said Sheikh’s aide Prajapati was also with the duo at the time, alleging that he was killed in another fake encounter in December 2006.
Establishing Prajapati’s presence with Sheikh and Kausarbi at the time of their alleged abduction is key for the prosecution to link the two suspected fake encounters as part of the same conspiracy.
At a hearing Monday, judge S.J. Sharma asked why Sheikh’s brother Rubabuddin, the one who petitioned the Supreme Court to investigate his death, did not mention Prajapati as being the third person.
Chargesheet & questions
When Sheikh was killed, the Gujarat and Rajasthan anti-terrorism cells had claimed that he was a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative who was in Gujarat to assassinate a prominent politician.
The CBI took over the investigation of the case from the Gujarat CID, which had also found inconsistencies in the encounter narrative.
Senior politicians such as Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah, the Gujarat home minister at the time of the killings, and Rajasthan home minister Gulab Chand Kataria, and IPS officers Dinesh M.N., D.G. Vanzara and Rajkumar Pandiyan were named as conspirators in the case, but later discharged.
Of the original 38 accused, 16 have been discharged, while 22, mostly low-rung police officers, are on trial. A total of 92 out of 200 witnesses examined in the case have turned hostile.
The CBI chargesheet says Sheikh was a wanted criminal who extorted money from marble traders in Gujarat and Rajasthan. It alleges that some traders approached politicians and police officers in Rajasthan and Gujarat in a criminal conspiracy to kill Sheikh.
According to the CBI, the Gujarat and Rajasthan police abducted Sheikh, Kausarbi, and Prajapati from the luxury bus they were in on the night of 22 November. From there, the investigators claimed, Sheikh and Kausarbi were taken to Gujarat, and Prajapati to Rajasthan.
Sheikh, they said, was killed in a fake encounter on 26 November 2005, while his wife was murdered and her body burnt on a riverbank in Gujarat’s Illol village immediately afterwards.
According to their chargesheet, Prajapati was fraudulently shown to have been arrested in Rajasthan, and killed in a fake encounter in December 2006 on the manufactured pretext of a prison escape.
Kundan Prajapati, a prosecution witness and Prajapati’s childhood friend, told the court last month that the latter had confided in him about fears that he might be killed in an encounter as he was a witness to the abduction of Sheikh and Kausarbi.
According to the prosecution, a Gujarat police officer had also spoken to Prajapati before the alleged abduction regarding a plan to nab Sheikh in “some small-time case”. The judge asked Monday what the mode of the alleged conversation was.
Judge Sharma also asked if there was evidence to show why Prajapati was killed a year after Sheikh’s death. During the prosecution’s final arguments, special public prosecutor B.P. Raju said that just five months prior to Sheikh’s encounter, he and Prajapati were named as accused in the 2004 killing of Udaipur gangster Abdul Hamid Lala and there was no mention of any LeT links at the time.
Judge Sharma raised questions over whether there was investigation on the reason why Sheikh was linked to the LeT in the Gujarat police FIR.
The special court is now hearing final arguments by the accused.