The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has suffered a major setback in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case as two key eye-witnesses have retracted their statements, stating they never witnessed the incident and were pressured to give certain statements implicating the accused officers. These two witnesses were part of Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) team which abducted Sheikh and his wife, Kauser Bi, and eventually killed them in a fake encounter.
The witnesses — Gurudayal Singh Chaudhary, posted in State Police Force (SRP), Gandhinagar as Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) and Nathubha Jadeja, constable in SRP — filed affidavits in the Special CBI court in Mumbai two weeks ago in response to an application moved by accused IPS officer Rajkumar Pandian for arraigning the duo as accused in the case. Pandian has said that since the duo were a part of the encounter team, they ought to have been made as accused instead of witnesses. Pandian’s other application seeking discharge from the case is pending in the same court. Several accused have already been discharged from the case, including BJP president Amit Shah among others.
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Although Jadeja had moved a similar affidavit in 2007, claiming that he was forced by then supervising officer in the case, IPS Rajnish Rai, to sign the statement.
The case was then being investigated by CID (crime). Chaudhary, for the first time, has said that he was pressured by the investigating agencies — CID and CBI — to give certain statements. He has accused retired policeman V L Solanki, the star witness of the CBI, who first investigated the case as a CID officer, of pressuring him to give false statement.
“V L Solanki told me that they were conducting an enquiry ordered by the Supreme Court in connection with Sohrabuddin encounter and asked me to sign a statement prepared by him and told me that he had written ‘as told by me to him’. I, being the SRPF staff, was not aware of the criminal investigation procedures and legal aspects followed in the course of inquiries and investigations. I believed him and put my signatures wherever he asked me to sign,” the affidavit filed by Chaudhary claims.
It further states that T K Patel, Police Inspector (CID), took Chaudhary to a private bungalow in Vadodara and showed a statement signed by the latter. The statement was written by Solanki who read it over to Chaudhary. “At that time, for the first time, I came to know that Solanki had created a false statement containing untruth and particulars unknown to me and untold by me, such as showing my visit to Hyderabad…” According to Chaudhary, when he objected to such a statement, he was threatened with arrest if he didn’t stick to the story.