TWO JAIL co-inmates of Tulsiram Prajapati, who earlier claimed that he had revealed to them that he had received threats from policemen before his encounter in December 2006, told the court on Friday that they never spoke beyond “exchanging pleasantries”. Both the witnesses, in almost identical depositions, denied that their statements were ever recorded by the CBI. They were declared hostile by the prosecution, taking the count of hostile witnesses in the case to 52 of the 76, who have deposed so far.
Prajapati, an associate of Sohrabuddin Shaikh, was lodged in Udaipur jail from December 2005 till his killing in an allegedly staged encounter a year later. According to the CBI, during his stay in jail, Prajapati had told his co-inmates that in November 2005, he was tricked into giving information about Sohrabuddin’s whereabouts by senior Gujarat policeman Abhay Chudasama, who he and Sohrabuddin worked for. Chudasama has been discharged from the case for lack of evidence in April 2015.
As per the statements of the two co-inmates recorded by the CBI in 2011, Prajapati told them that senior Gujarat policemen, Chudasama and Dahyazi Vanzara (also discharged from the case in 2017), had told him that they would have to arrest Sohrabuddin due to political pressure and that he would be released on bail once the matter dies down. Instead, Sohrabuddin and his wife Kausarbi were abducted and he was killed in a fake encounter, Prajapati is said to have told the inmates. As he was an eyewitness to the abduction, he was under threat from policemen, he had told the inmates.
“Tulsiram se sirf ‘Hi, hello’ hoti thi, mera aur Tulsi ka itna bol-chaal nahi tha. I had no occasion to discuss anything with him,” the first witness told the court on Friday, denying his three-page statement given to the CBI.
The witness said, while the two were co-accused in the murder case of a person named Hamid Lala in Udaipur and were lodged in the same prison for nearly a year, they were kept in separate barracks and therefore barely spoke to each other. The witness also denied knowing Sohrabuddin.
The CBI had claimed that it was this witness, who had helped Sohrabuddin perform nikaah (marriage) with Kausarbi. The second witness, similarly, said he did not know Sohrabuddin and had not spoken to Prajapati beyond exchanging pleasantries. The two were acquitted of all charges from the Hamid Lala murder case in 2009.
In their statements to CBI, the witnesses had given a detailed description, based on what Prajapati told them about the encounter. They had claimed that their common associate had introduced them to Sohrabuddin. One of them had claimed that on November 24, 2005, his sister visited him in jail and informed him that Sohrabuddin had been arrested and that 2-3 days after this, they read in the papers that Sohrabuddin was killed in an encounter.
“My sister never came to meet me in prison,” the witness told the court on Friday.
Further, the statements claim that a few days after Sohrabuddin’s encounter, Prajapati was brought to Udaipur jail. Prajapati reportedly spoke about his extortion bids with Sohrabuddin in Rajasthan and the Rs 20 crore that they had demanded from two business owners. Prajapati then told them that he was tricked by the Gujarat police and was being threatened against revealing anything about the abduction of Sohrabuddin and Kausarbi. The witnesses denied all of this on Friday.
Further, they denied that one of the accused, police inspector Abdul Rehman, had threatened Prajapati by coming into the prison barracks. They also denied that two of Prajapati’s associates – his nephew and his friend – were falsely implicated in a drug case to pressurise Prajapati, a fact CBI mentions in their alleged statements. “Prajapati’s nephew and friend were lodged in Udaipur jail. They had told us that they were arrested in possession of drugs,” the witnesses told court, denying their earlier statements.
They also denied that when they heard of Prajapati’s escape from police custody, they were told by a co-inmate that it appeared to be the police’s “game-plan” and that it was confirmed when they heard the next day that Prajapati was killed in an encounter.
Meanwhile, special public prosecutor BP Raju informed the court that two other co-inmates and co-accused of Prajapati, who were to appear as prosecution witnesses, are not traceable. He said that the two accused are wanted in other criminal cases and are on the run and that summons served to them have returned unserved. The two witnesses had deposed about the threat to Prajapati after his arrest.
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