The special CBI court hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh alleged fake encounter case has directed all accused to remain present in court for the trial from Wednesday. Twenty-two accused — most of them policemen from Gujarat, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh — are facing trial. Most seek exemption from appearance before the court through their advocates. “All accused are directed to attend day-to-day trial as some of their advocates are engaged in other courts and remain absent. Hence, the court has to sit waiting for them. Even the witnesses to be examined in the future are required to be examined on the identification of the accused. This also necessitates accused persons to attend court. Any failure to obey this order will be seriously viewed,” Special Judge S J Sharma said in the roznama or daily record of the court.
The issue came up on Tuesday when the court had to wait for advocates of the accused to come before it for cross-examination of a prosecution witness. While two of the accused — Mukesh Parmar and Abdul Rehman — were present in court and most were represented through their advocates, a few were not present to state whether or not they want to cross-examine the witness.
As the case was transferred from Gujarat to Mumbai on the orders of the Supreme Court in 2012, most of the accused had sought exemption since they do not have a place to stay in Mumbai. The court, however, said it would require their presence for the daily trial. The court also said that it would direct the authority concerned to be present before it for the daily hearing if required.
It reprimanded special public prosecutor B P Raju, questioning him on why some “irrelevant” witnesses were being called for examination. The court was discussing whether a videographer, who had recorded the post-mortem, was necessary for examination since a medical expert had already deposed on the point.
On Tuesday, the court examined two witnesses, among them the prosecution witness number 16, whose examination-in-chief was deferred earlier. The witness, who worked in the officers’ mess in Hyderabad where the Gujarat police team had allegedly stayed in November 2005 before Sohrabuddin was allegedly abducted, said that while he was the custodian of registers maintained by the mess staff on the guests, he had not seen any of the officials.
The second witness pertained to a revolver seized by the Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad in 2007. The witness told the court that he had been called as a panch by an unknown person and he had seen the revolver being seized in his presence by someone he was told was “Mr Dabhi”. During cross-examination, the witness told the court that he does not know the first name of the official and that it was a common surname in Gujarat. The court has examined 44 witnesses so far and the evidence process will continue on Wednesday.