The CBI had a “pre-meditated theory and a script intended to anyhow implicate political leaders” in the alleged fake encounter killings of gangster Sohrabuddin Shaikh and his associate Tulsiram Prajapati, and the alleged murder of his wife, Kausar Bi, more than a decade ago, said the special court which acquitted all the 22 accused last week.
In the around 350-page judgment on December 21, Special CBI Judge S J Sharma said: “My predecessor has, while passing an order of discharge in the application of accused number 16 (Amit Shah), clearly recorded that the investigation was politically motivated. Having given my dispassionate consideration to the entire material placed before me and having examined each of the witnesses and the evidence closely, I have no hesitation in recording that a premier investigating agency like the CBI had before it a pre-meditated theory and a script intended to anyhow implicate political leaders, and the agency thereafter merely did what was required to reach that goal rather than conducting an investigation in accordance with law.”
The court made a specific mention of Shah, who was an accused in the case but was discharged in 2014. While discharging Shah on December 30, 2014, Judge M B Gosavi, who was Judge Sharma’s predecessor, had said there was merit in Shah’s contention that he was shown as involved by the CBI “for some political reasons”.
On December 21, the special CBI court acquitted all 22 accused, including 21 serving and retired police personnel from Rajasthan, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, citing insufficient evidence, while it expressed sorrow over the loss of “three lives”. Parts of the judgment were made available on Friday.
“It clearly appears that the CBI was more concerned in establishing a particular pre-conceived and pre-meditated theory rather than finding out the truth,” the court said, adding that the CBI was “doing something other than reaching the truth of the offences”. “The entire investigation was thus targeted to act upon a script to achieve the said goal and, in the process of its zeal to implicate political leaders, CBI created evidence and placed witness statements in the chargesheet,” it said.
The court also said the CBI had “wrongly recorded” statements’ of witnesses — 92 of the 210 witnesses who deposed were declared hostile. “When I say that witnesses have turned hostile, it merely means that they did not depose as per their respective statements recorded by the CBI during its investigation. However, I had the occasion of seeing the deposition of the witnesses when they were in the witness box before this court, which clearly reflected that they were speaking the truth, clearly indicating that their statements were wrongly recorded under Section 161 of CrPC by the CBI during investigation,” the court said.
It said the witnesses had “deposed fearlessly” before the trial court, “indicating” that the CBI had wrongly recorded their statements “to justify its script to implicate political leaders”. “I have also noted the negligence of the CBI towards material part of investigation, which clearly indicates that they hurriedly completed the investigation, either by using replica of the earlier recorded investigation, and have implicated the police persons who had no knowledge of any conspiracy, rather they appear innocent,” the court said.
It said while it had established that the encounter of Tulsiram Prajapati in Gujarat on December 28, 2006 was “genuine”, the killing of Sohrabuddin could not be proved to be a genuine or fake encounter. The court also said that it was not proven that Kausar Bi was abducted with Sohrabuddin and was killed in November 2005.
“I am not unaware of the degree of agony and frustration that may be caused to society in general, and the families of the deceased in particular, by the fact that a serious nature of crime like this goes unpunished, but then the law does not permit the court to punish the accused on the basis of moral conviction or suspicion alone… It is no doubt a matter of regret that there is reported killing of Sohrabuddin and Tulsiram Prajapati, which is going unpunished. So also, Kausar Bi, the wife of Sohrabuddin, disappeared and the script of the CBI during investigation that she was killed and set ablaze is lacking in evidence and is also going unpunished. However, just for the sake of record, the accused cannot be punished, holding them guilty on moral or suspicion ground. I have therefore no option (but) to conclude that the accused are not guilty and are to be acquitted,” the court said.
This was Special Judge Sharma’s last judgment, as he retires on December 31. According to CBI, Sohrabuddin, Kausar Bi and Tulsiram were abducted from a luxury bus while they were on their way to Sangli in Maharashtra from Hyderabad on November 23, 2005. The prosecution claimed that while Sohrabuddin and Kausar Bi were taken to farmhouses in Gujarat and detained illegally, Tulsiram’s arrest was shown three days later from a house in Bhilwara in Rajasthan.
The CBI claimed that Sohrabuddin was shown to have been killed in a staged encounter on November 26, 2005 in Ahmedabad, and Kausar Bi was killed and her body disposed on November 29, 2005. A year later, on December 28, 2006, Tulsiram was shown to have been killed in an encounter in Gujarat.
A CBI spokesperson said they would not be able to comment on the court’s observations till they receive a copy of the judgment.