Over three weeks after a prosecution witness in the alleged fake encounter cases of Sohrabuddin Shaikh and Tulsiram Prajapati claimed that former Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya was killed by Sohrabuddin and others on instructions given by former Gujarat IPS officer D G Vanzara, the 12 accused charged with Pandya’s murder sought access to the witness’ deposition to prove their innocence. The Supreme Court is currently hearing an appeal in the Pandya murder case.
How Sohrabuddin Shaikh trial could impact Pandya case
In 2011, Gujarat High Court acquitted of the charge of murder the 12 men accused in the 2003 killing of Haren Pandya in Ahmedabad. The trial court had convicted these men in 2007. Both the Gujarat government and CBI have challenged the acquittal in the Supreme Court. While the top court remains seized of the matter, the accused, who are being represented by lawyers of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, will now refer to the deposition made in another court by a former associate of Sohrabuddin Shaikh, a criminal who was allegedly killed in police custody in 2005. On November 3, this man, Azam Khan, told a special CBI court in Mumbai, where trial in the case of the alleged fake encounter killings of Sheikh and his associate Tulsiram Prajapati is ongoing, that Gujarat police officer D G Vanzara had “given Sohrabuddin the contract to kill Pandya”. The 12 men charged with Pandya’s murder will seek to use Khan’s statement to strengthen their case in the Supreme Court.
The 12 accused have sought the deposition of the witness, Azam Khan, an Udaipur-based gangster, and will be referring to it during their submissions in the hearing before the apex court. On November 3, Khan, an associate of Sohrabuddin and Tulsiram, had told the special court in Mumbai, that Sohrabuddin had told that he was given a contract to kill Pandya by Vanzara. “During discussion with Sohrabuddin, he told me that he, along with Naeem Khan and Shahid Rampuri, got the contract to kill Home Minister Haren Pandya of Gujarat and they killed him… Sohrabuddin told me that the contract was given to him by Vanzara,” Khan told the court during his examination. Khan also said that Sohrabuddin had told him “upar se yeh kaam diya tha (the work was given from above).”
“I had told the CBI officer (probing the encounter case) that Haren Pandya’s murder was done by Tulsiram Prajapati and one boy at the instance of Sohrabuddin,” Khan had said.
Pandya was shot in Ahmedabad on March 26, 2003. The Gujarat Police and subsequently the CBI, which took over the probe, initially claimed a total of 19 persons were behind the conspiracy to plan and execute the murder. In 2007, a special court in Gujarat convicted 12 persons on various terms of imprisonment ranging from five years to life. In 2011, however, the High Court acquitted them of murder charge, convicting them for attempt to murder. The High Court also said that the case has “all throughout been botched up and blinkered and has left a lot to be desired”. The CBI and the Gujarat government have filed an appeal before the Supreme Court against this order.