ON THE last day of the trial in the Sohrabuddin Shaikh and Tulsiram Prajapati alleged fake encounters case, the CBI prosecutor submitted before the court that the prosecution had not been able to establish many links of evidence to prove the offence. On Wednesday, Special Public Prosecutor BP Raju blamed delay in investigation and the 12-year-long gap between the incident and the deposition of witnesses for affecting the evidence against the accused. Raju said that while Shaikh’s encounter and the alleged murder of his wife, Kausarbi, had taken place in November 2005 and Prajapati’s encounter took place in 2006, the CBI took over the probe only in 2010.
“The incident took place in 2005 and 2006. There was no investigation till 2007 when the case was transferred to the Gujarat CID. Much of the evidence before us is the probe conducted by the CID. The CBI took over the probe only in 2010. The witnesses are deposing after more than 12 years. Many said they do not remember things. The main, star witnesses, went hostile… the entire chain has gone wrong, we could not bring direct evidence,” Raju told the court.
He was referring to the statements of Gujarat Police officers, Nathubha Jadeja and Bhailal Rathod, who had, in their statements to the CBI, claimed that they had travelled with the accused policemen, including some of the IPS officers discharged by the court, to Hyderabad detailing the abduction of the three deceased persons. Both, however, said that they had never given the statements and that their signatures were obtained by the police on blank pages. Raju added that the two star witnesses were the policemen and the accused, too, were policemen.
Special Judge SJ Sharma said that both the CID and the CBI had “tried their best” to collect documents and witness statements as evidence against the accused. “What was collected was sufficient to connect the accused to the offences. There are witnesses, who had given statements before the investigating agencies. What they said in the court ultimately, the blame cannot be put on the investigators. Witnesses going hostile does not mean that the case is gone,” the judge said.
Between 2014 and 2018, 16 accused, including IPS officers, were discharged from the case for lack of evidence with only 22 junior-rung policemen and a farmhouse owner from Gujarat currently standing trial. This week, while hearing the final arguments, the special court pointed out many lacunae in the prosecution’s case.
Earlier on Wednesday, four accused completed their final arguments. Three policemen — assistant sub-inspector Narayan Singh and constables Kartar Singh and Yudhvir Singh — who were part of the escort team that claimed Tulsiram had escaped from their custody on December 27, 2006, claimed that the CBI’s allegation that the escape was staged was false.
Gujarat Police personnel, RK Patel, who was part of the CID probe team, also claimed that he had been falsely implicated by the CBI on charges of attempting to influence witnesses and scuttle the investigation. Patel told the court that he had assisted the CBI in its initial days of investigation and that the agency had continued to follow many of the established evidence as probed by him and filed in the three chargesheets filed by the CID from 2007 till 2010, when the case was transferred to the CBI.
On Wednesday, with the conclusion of the final arguments, the court reserved the judgment. Raju said he was not going to file written arguments.
On Monday, the prosecution had concluded its arguments in two hours, against all 22 accused following which the court began hearing the final submissions of the accused. The case had begun in November 2017 and saw the deposition of 210 witnesses. Of them 92 turned hostile.