The CBI probe into the 2005 Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case suffered a fresh blow when the special CBI court in Mumbai dropped criminal proceedings against another key accused, Gujarat IPS officer Abhay Chudasama, on Wednesday. On Tuesday, the same court also discharged two more accused — Ajay Patel and Yashpal Chudasama — from the case. They were all chargesheeted by the CBI in 2010 when the central probe agency took over the investigation from Gujarat police.
Special Judge M B Gosavi pronounced the order, exonerating Chudasama and two others. Chudasama was arrested on April 28, 2010, by the CBI and was granted bail on April 28, 2014. The Gujarat government reinstated him back into police department in August 2014 and posted him in the DG Vigilance Squad that works directly under DGP.
Nearly four months after the CBI court discharged BJP chief Amit Shah from the case, Chudasama also got a respite, along with Ajay Patel. The CBI, in its chargesheet, had described Abhay Chudasama as a “trusted officer” of Shah and Patel as a “close friend”. In fact, the CBI chargesheet named Chudasama as accused number 15, Shah as 16, Patel as 17 and Chudasama as 18. Shah and Patel are senior office-bearers of the Ahmedabad District Co-Operative Bank (ADC). The ADC website shows Patel as chairman of the bank while Yashpal Chudasama and Shah are directors of the cooperative bank.
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“Our basic argument was that he (Chudasama) was not concerned with the alleged encounter. He was only alleged to have prior connection with Sohrabuddin and had no role in abduction or in the alleged encounter. He was not concerned with any extortion as claimed by CBI,” said Mumbai-based lawyer Shishir Gupte, who represented Chudasama in the case.
The CBI chargesheet claims that the “elimination of Sohrabuddin was being used for extortion by the accused persons to establish an element of fear in the minds of businessmen and others”. It states that “Amit Shah entrusted this job to D G Vanzara, Rajkumar Pandian and Abhay Chudasama.”
The chargesheet claimed that Chudasama was on “good terms” with Sohrabuddin even before the encounter took place. It claims Chudasama “directed Sohrabuddin to create terror and panic in Ahmedabad, at a well-known business premises of Patel brothers (of Popular builders) by his gang members, resorting to opening of firing.”
CBI also alleged that Chudasama tried to influence the family members of Sohrubuddin by “offering Rs 50 lakh to withdraw a petition filed in the Supreme Court”. Following the encounter, Rubabuddin, brother of Sohrabuddin, had filed a habeas corpus petition in the apex court and subsequent to the court’s order, the case was investigated by Gujarat CID and it was for the first time revealed that the encounter was fake.
Earlier, the CBI court discharged Rajasthan home minister Gulab Chand Katariya, marble trader Vimal Patni, ex-DGP P C Pande, O P Mathur, recently-promoted DGP Geetha Johri, among others. Rubabuddin said over phone that although the CBI had not appealed against the discharge, he will move the Bombay High Court soon.