A KEY witness in the alleged fake encounter of Tulsiram Prajapati, an associate of Sohrabuddin Shaikh who was killed on December 26, 2005, claimed before the special CBI court on Thursday that the CBI had pressured him to give a false statement in the case in 2011. Though the witness claimed that his statement in 2011 was taken under duress, the prosecution did not declare
The witness, an official of the Rajasthan police, teared up several times while deposing before the court and said that in 2011, CBI officials had threatened to make him an accused in the alleged fake encounter case if he did not give a statement as per their directions to a magistrate. He claimed that despite him pleading before the officials, he was made to record his statement in Navi Mumbai on the day of his daughter’s engagement on July 4, 2011. The witness was summoned to the CBI office in Navi Mumbai on July 1, 2011.
“I was forced under fear of arrest to make a statement before a magistrate. Since it was not true, I requested them not to compel me to make such a statement, but they (CBI officials) paid no heed and forced me to make the statement,” the witness told the court.
According to the witness, the CBI made him lie about the date of arrest of Prajapati to be November 26, 2005 instead of the actual date of his arrest on November 29, 2005. He further said while his statement read that in 2005, a few days after the encounter of Sohrabuddin on November 26, 2005, a meeting had taken place between the then Gujarat ATS chief DG Vanzara, Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Katariya and the then BJP Rajasthan state president Om Mathur at Jag Mandir in Udaipur, he told the court on Thursday no such meeting had taken place.
“I have never met DG Vanzara. I never personally attended to him or any politician at Jag Mandir,” the witness told the court. He said that before he was produced before the magistrate, he was shown a statement by the CBI officials in their office and was asked to dictate the same before him. “Maine unko kaha tha, yeh nikal do statement se, yeh galat hai. Par DIG Kandaswamy ne mera collar pakda aur mujhe bola meri giraftari dikhayenge. Mujhe bola unhone ki agar aapko bachna hai, yahi bolna padega (I told the CBI officials to remove these parts from the statement. DIG Kandaswamy held my collar and said that he is going to arrest me and prepared my arrest papers),” he told the court.
According to the CBI, Prajapati was arrested on November 26, 2005, on the day Sohrabuddin was killed in an alleged encounter in Gujarat. It claims that the arrest of Prajapati was linked to Sohrabuddin as a team of Rajasthan police, which had carried out Sohrabuddin’s encounter in 2005, had tipped off policemen in Rajasthan, based on which the witness and others had arrested Prajapati on the same day. The witness, however, said that the tip-off had come from a local informant that Prajapati had been living in Bhilwara under a false name.
The witness told the court that after Prajapati’s arrest on November 29, the landlord who had rented his house to Prajapati, had told the Rajasthan police that he was living there for over 15 days, selling onions and potatoes using the name Samir.
The CBI claims that Prajapati along with Sohrabuddin and his wife Kausarbi were abducted by a team of Gujarat police on November 23 and later he was shown arrested by the Rajasthan police. As Prajapati was a witness to the abduction, he was also allegedly killed in a staged encounter in 2006. Other policemen, part of the arrest team, as well as the landlords have also been summoned by the prosecution as witnesses in the case.
In his 2011 statement before a Navi Mumbai magistrate, the witness had further said that in 2006 he had sought the police custody of Mohammed Azam, Prajapati’s co-accused in a murder case in Ahmedabad, after Superintendent of Udaipur, Dinesh MN, had put pressure on him to take action against certain criminals, specifically naming Azam. Azam and Prajapati were both lodged in an Udaipur jail.
The CBI claimed that Azam was to be taken to Ahmedabad from Udaipur along with Prajapati on December 26, 2006. He was deliberately taken into custody in another case, so that Prajapati could be made to travel alone and could be eliminated in a staged encounter, the CBI claims.
In a departure from his 2011 statement, the witness, however, told the court on Thursday that Azam was arrested for investigation in another case based on a tip-off he had himself received. Dinesh MN is among the 15 accused discharged from the case and an appeal against his discharge is pending before the Bombay High Court.
The witness told the court that the CBI had called him for inquiry “12-13 times”, both in Rajasthan and Gujarat, but his statement was not recorded, apart from the “forced” statement in 2011. Of the 67 prosecution witnesses who have deposed in the case so far, 48 have turned hostile.