February 18, 2022 4:40:26 am
A special public prosecutor (SPP) will be appointed by the legal department in the case of alleged custodial death of Babu Nisar Sheikh, a migrant worker in Vadodara, who was picked up by the police in December 2019 and has been ‘missing’ ever since.
The legal department of the state government submitted before the Gujarat High Court on February 15 that the public prosecutor will be appointed within seven working days. The submission was made during the hearing of a contempt petition moved by Babu Nisar’s son Salim Sheikh for non-compliance of a December 8, 2020, order where the HC had deemed it fit to request the state government to provide a special public prosecutor “as early as possible”.
More than two years after he was picked up by Fatehgunj police in Vadodara on the suspicion of theft, Nisar’s remains are yet to be recovered. He is suspected to have been tortured to death at the Fatehgunj police station. Eight police officials have been named as accused in the charge-sheet following Nisar’s disappearance.
During the course of hearing of the contempt petition, taken up by the division bench of Chief Justice Aravind Kumar and Justice AJ Shastri, the state government submitted that the previous special public prosecutor, who “was coming from Bharuch”, will be replaced by an SPP “from Vadodara”.
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Earlier, The Indian Express had reported that the state’s legal department had, in a circular dated December 7, withdrawn Shailendrasinh Gharaviya, the SPP appointed in the case, “with immediate effect”. It had also asked the district government pleader of Vadodara to continue with the trial.
Following the submission by the assistant government pleader (AGP), DM Devnani, on behalf of the legal department, the division bench had disposed of the contempt petition. However, the bench observed, “…we had called upon the AGP to ascertain the stage at which the appointment of a special public prosecutor is at… Even by construing the observation made (in the December 2020 order) as a direction, it would leave no manner of doubt in the mind of this court that the order stands complied in lieu of the statement made by the AGP. Hence, the contempt proceedings stand dropped.”
The December 8, 2020, order had come in a habeas corpus petition moved by Salim in June 2020, months after his father went missing in December 2019. Over the course of the hearing of the habeas corpus petition, CID, which has been investigating the crime, had, in a sealed cover report submitted before the bench on December 1, 2020, that Nisar “has expired and his dead body is yet to be recovered.”
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