The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has suffered a major setback in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case as two key eye-witnesses have retracted their statements, stating they never witnessed the incident and were pressurised to give certain statements implicating the accused officers. These two witnesses were part of Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) team which abducted Sohrab and his wife, Kauser Bi, and eventually killed them in a fake encounter.
The eye-witnesses – Gurudayal Singh Chaudhary, posted in State Police Force (SRP), Gandhinagar as Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) and Nathubha Jadeja, constable in SRP – filed affidavits (a copy is with this paper) in the Special CBI court in Mumbai two weeks back in a response to an application moved by accused IPS officer Rajkumar Pandian for arraigning the duo as accused in the case. Pandian has said that since the duo were a part of the encounter team, they ought to have been made as accused instead of witnesses. Pandian’s another application seeking discharge from the case is pending in the same court. Several accused have already been discharged from the case that includes BJP president Amit Shah among others.
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Although Jadeja had moved a similar affidavit in 2007, claiming that he was forced by then supervising officer in the case, IPS Rajnish Rai, to sign the statement. The case was then being investigated by CID (crime). Chaudhary, for the first time, has said that he was pressurised by the investigating agencies — the CID and the CBI — to give certain statements. He has accused retired policeman V L Solanki, the star witness of the CBI, who first investigated the case as a CID officer, of pressurising him to give false statement.
“V L Solanki told me that they were conducting an enquiry ordered by the Supreme Court in connection with Sohrabuddin encounter and asked me to sign a statement prepared by him and told me that he had written ‘as told by me to him’. I, being the SRPF staff, was not aware of the criminal investigation procedures and legal aspects followed in the course of inquiries and investigations. I believed him and put my signatures wherever he asked me to sign,” the affidavit filed by Chaudhary claims.
It further accuses that T K Patel, Police Inspector (CID) took Chaudhary to a private bungalow in Vadodara and showed statement signed by the latter. The statement was written by Solanki who read it over to Chaudhary. “At that time, for the first time, I came to know that Solanki had created a false statement containing untruth and particulars unknown to me and untold by me, such as showing my visit to Hyderabad…” According to Chaudhary, when he objected to such a statement, he was threatened with arrest if he didn’t stick to the story.
The CBI chargesheet mentions Jadeja and Chaudhary as part of the ATS team who travelled to Hyderabad, along with Pandian and other accused policemen. The two policemen were part of the alleged team that abducted Sohrabuddin and his wife Kauser Bi and Tulsiram Prajapati from a private bus at Sangli and brought them back to Ahmedabad.
The CBI has said Jadeja was also part of the accused police team that disposed of Kauser Bi’s body at Illol village, Sabarkantha, the native place of key accused in the case, D G Vanzara. The chargesheet states that while disposing the body, V A Rathod asked Jadeja about the identification of the body, upon which Jadeja replied that it was Kauser Bi. Rathod, who was a witness in the case, has recently been made an accused by the order of the special court in Mumbai.