A year after the Gujarat High Court directed the state government to appoint a Special Public Prosecutor (PP) in the trial of the alleged custodial death of a 65-year-old migrant worker from Telangana inside the Fatehgunj police station in Vadodara in December 2019, the legal department of the state has ordered withdrawal of the SPP “with immediate effect”, asking the District Government Pleader of Vadodara to continue with the trial.
The circular of the legal department was issued on December 7, based on a resolution dated May 11, 2021, to appoint an SPP in the case related to the death of migrant worker Babu Nisar Shaikh. The circular, signed by the legal department under secretary, NA Baria, states, “Vide resolution cited in the preamble, the government of Gujarat had appointed Shailendrasinh I Gharaviya as a Special Public Prosecutor for conducting the case of Vadodara city police station… which appointment is hereby discontinued with immediate effect and Government pleader of Vadodara is directed to conduct the case.”
The circular is marked to 10 entities, including Bharuch-based Gharaviya, the District Government Pleader of Vadodara, and various government legal and accounts departments. The circular has asked the advocate appointed as SPP to “submit bills regarding the case”.
Nisar’s family counsel in Vadodara told this newspaper that the circular, apart from not giving reasons for the withdrawal, had also misspelt the name of SPP. “The advocate taken on as the SPP is Shailendrasinh Dhariya… The circular has withdrawn the SPP without any valid reasons, which would amount to contempt of court by the government department,” the counsel said.
Nisar’s advocate in the HC, Imtiyaz Kureshi, told this newspaper that the appointment was based on the HC order of December 8, 2020, in which, the court had dismissed the writ of habeas corpus filed by the family under Article 226 by holding a view that the “corpus (Nisar) is declared to have been dead”.
Kureshi said, “The state CID, through Public Prosecutor Mitesh Amin, had requested for the appointment of an SPP for the trial court. The family had also made an oral request for the same. The court considered the request and directed the government to appoint the SPP. We will move the HC for contempt of court by this sudden withdrawal without a reason.”
In its order dated December 8, 2020, the High Court said, “Mr (Mitesh) Amin, learned Public Prosecutor also further pointed out that as per the instructions of the investigating officer, Girish Pandya…, the state government is requested to provide services of Special PP… In facts of this case and in view of the earlier orders passed by this court and considering the incident, as narrated even in the report submitted by CID (Crime), Gandhinagar today, we deem it fit to request the state sovernment to accord sanction for providing Special PP in this case before the sessions court, as early as possible…”
Investigating Officer and Superintendent of Police, CID, Girish Pandya, told this newspaper that he was unaware about the order, while NA Baria said the order was issued based on a “decision of the government at the minister-level”. Joint Secretary of Legal Department, MG Dave, said, “I need to study the issue.”
Nisar allegedly went missing on December 10, 2019, after he was apprehended from Fulwadi area by the Fatehgunj police station on suspicion of theft. Eight policemen were named in the chargesheet filed by the state CID.