IN THE trial into the alleged fake encounters of Sohrabuddin Shaikh and Tulsiram Prajapati in Gujarat, while the policeman who shot Tulsiram told the special court on Tuesday that he shot in “self-defence”, the officer who allegedly shot Sohrabuddin, denied that he was even present at the encounter spot.
Sohrabuddin was killed on November 26, 2005, in Ahmedabad, while his associate Tulsiram was killed on December 28, 2006, in Banaskantha district of Gujarat. The CBI has claimed that both the encounters were staged and 22 accused are currently facing trial for being part of the conspiracy linking the two.
The accused continued to submit final arguments before the court on Tuesday. Gujarat policeman Ashish Pandya claimed before the court that on December 27, 2006, he had received a message to assist a team of Rajasthan Police in search of a prisoner (Tulsiram) who had escaped from custody.
Pandya claimed that during a search operation on December 28, 2006, he was caught in a cross-fire with Tulsiram and his two associates. “I shot at him (Tulsiram) in self-defence. He was injured and we (policemen) rushed him to the hospital, where he passed away. It was not a staged encounter as has been claimed by the CBI,” advocate Rajesh Bindra, representing Pandya said.
The CBI has claimed that Pandya, who was on leave during the said period, was directed by IPS officer D G Vanzara — an accused in the case who has been discharged by the court — to cancel his leave and join the team for the encounter.
The agency has also alleged that Pandya had injured himself on the arm to portray the encounter as genuine. Pandya, however, claimed that the injury was not self-inflicted.
Special Judge S J Sharma also asked the prosecution if it had collected any evidence to show the alleged communication between Vanzara and Pandya. “There is no evidence to show that A25 (Pandya) cancelled his leave on the instructions of A1 (Vanzara) or that there was any communication between them,” the court said.
It also asked the CBI why no call data records were brought on record to show that the two had communicated or conspired.
Meanwhile, Police Inspector Abdul Rehman, represented by advocate Wahab Khan, submitted before the court that he had never visited the office of the Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad. The CBI has submitted before the court an alleged complaint written in Gujarati and signed with the initials of Abdul Rehman, stating that Sohrabuddin was killed in cross-firing.
Rehman, however, denied that he had written the complaint. “My name is Abdul Rehman but I have not signed the complaint. My handwriting samples were not taken. So many accused were interrogated by so many investigating teams, but it was never probed as to who dictated, typed and signed on the complaint. It was the duty of the prosecution to find out,” he submitted.
Other accused also claimed that there was no evidence against them. Ajay Parmar and Santram Sharma, officers junior to Gujarat IPS officer R K Pandian (earlier discharged from the case), told the court that while the CBI had not named them in the chargesheet, the agency had subsequently opposed their discharge plea, despite having no evidence against them.
“We have been made scapegoats. The prosecution unnecessarily continued to name us as accused despite there being no evidence against us…,” said advocate Fakhruddin Khan, representing Parmar and Sharma.
The CBI has claimed that while Parmar travelled as Pandian by forging his signature on a flight from Hyderabad to Ahmedabad, Pandian himself travelled in the car used in the abduction of Sohrabuddin, Tulsiram and Kausarbi.
While the handwriting expert on Parmar’s specimen signature deposed before the court, the report pertaining to Parmar was not mentioned.
Further, the court also questioned why till 2010, no investigating agency had collected the photograph of Tulsiram to be provided to witnesses for identification. The final arguments by the accused are likely to conclude on Wednesday.