IN THE Sohrabuddin Shaikh alleged fake encounter case, a prosecution witness, who had earlier given statement that he had witnessed an accused giving his specimen signatures to the police, turned hostile before the court on Thursday. So far, 49 of the 71 prosecution witnesses have turned hostile in the case.
Sohrabuddin and his wife Kausarbi were allegedly abducted from a luxury bus on November 23, 2005 by policemen from Gujarat while they were on way to Sangli from Hyderabad. Sohrabuddin was killed in a staged encounter on November 26, 2005 in Gujarat, subsequent to which, Kausarbi was also killed.
The witness, a 28-year old labourer from Gujarat, told the court that over 10 years ago, policemen had taken him along with another person to a police station in Gandhinagar, where he was allegedly shown a book and made to sign on some papers.
When shown a panchnama bearing his signature, the witness identified his signature. He, however, added: “Policemen obtained my signature on some paper. I did not know the name of the police officer present there. I was not shown anything, only my signature was taken,” he said. He claimed that he neither recalls how many pages he was made to sign, nor was he told why his signature was being taken.
The witness said that around six years ago, he was summoned by policemen in civilian clothes, who asked him whether he had signed any paper earlier. He was not asked anything else, he told the court. The witness, who claimed to have studied till Class V, said he works as a labourer. Speaking in Gujarati, he struggled to understand the questions posed to him in Hindi by the special public prosecutor.
According to the CBI, the Gujarat CID had on July 6, 2007 taken the witness to the CID office where he was introduced to then police sub-inspector, Balkrishna Chaubey, an accused in the case. The CID, during its course of investigation, had seized a logbook of a vehicle, allegedly used by Gujarat policemen, that showed that it was used during the abduction and killing of Sohrabuddin in November 2005. It had said that when Chaubey was in CID custody, after he denied before the police that it was his signature on the logbook, the agency had taken his specimen signature on six pages in front of an independent panch witness.
On Thursday, CBI prosecutor B P Raju confronted the witness stating that he had been shown the logbook, bearing Chaubey’s signature. He directed Chaubey, who was present in the courtroom, to stand, so that the witness could see him.
Maintaining that he could not identify him, the witness said: “It is not true that accused number 6 (Chaubey), now shown to me, was present in the police station and his six specimen signatures were taken in my presence.” He also denied that he was shown the logbook with entries of November 23, 24, 25, 26 and 30, 2005 and December 1, 2005, with “secret inquiry” written in the purpose of its visit column.
This witness, however, alleged that he was not explained any of this and was asked to leave after his signature was taken. “It is not true that I am deposing false to save the accused,” he said in response to the prosecutor’s suggestion during his cross-examination.