A KEY witness in the Sohrabuddin Shaikh alleged fake encounter case claimed on Saturday that Sohrabuddin had told him about former Gujarat IPS officer D G Vanzara having given a contract to kill Haren Pandya, senior BJP leader and former Gujarat minister, who was murdered in 2003.
The witness, Azam Khan, an associate of Sohrabuddin and Tulsiram Prajapati, also said that while he had told the CBI investigator about it in 2010, the officer had refused to record it as part of his statement.
“During discussion with Sohrabuddin, he told me that he, along with Naeem Khan and Shahid Rampuri, got the contract to kill Home Minister Haren Pandya of Gujarat and they killed him. I felt sad and I told Sohrabuddin that they have killed a good person. Sohrabuddin told me that the contract was given to him by Vanzara,” Khan told the court during his examination-in-chief. Khan also said that Sohrabuddin had told him “upar se yeh kaam diya tha (the work was given from above).”
Vanzara, who was named accused number 1 in the alleged fake encounter cases, was discharged by the trial court on August 1, 2017. The trial court’s order, which was not challenged by the CBI, but by Sohrabuddin’s brother Rubabuddin, was upheld by the Bombay High Court in September. During further cross-examination, when Khan was asked why these facts were not mentioned in his statements recorded by the CBI, he said he had told the CBI officer, N S Raju. “I had told the CBI officer that Haren Pandya’s murder was done by Tulsiram Prajapati and one boy at the instance of Sohrabuddin. When I told him (Raju) about Haren Pandya, ‘unhone bola naye bakhede mey mat dalo (don’t involve me in new confusion),” the witness said in court.
He also said that Pandya had helped in bringing communities together after the violence in the state in 2002 and that he had told Sohrabuddin he should not have been killed. “I felt bad and made up my mind to leave the company of Sohrabuddin,” Khan told the court.
Pandya was shot dead in Ahmedabad on March 26, 2003. In 2007, a trial court in Gujarat had held 12 persons guilty for the murder, sentencing nine of them to life imprisonment. The Gujarat High Court, however, acquitted all of them in 2011. An appeal against the acquittals is pending before the Supreme Court.
Khan, an Udaipur-based gangster, was brought before the court on Saturday under heavy security from Udaipur central jail where he is currently lodged. He had earlier told the court that he was being pressured to give a statement in favour of the accused and that he was falsely implicated in criminal cases. While the CBI had claimed that he was “untraceable” for many months, last month, he was arrested by the Udaipur police. Currently, 22 accused, including
Rajasthan and Gujarat policemen, are facing trial for the alleged encounters of Sohrabuddin and Tulsiram Prajapati and the alleged murder of Sohrabuddin’s wife, Kausarbi. Khan also told the court about how he began committing crimes and came in contact with Sohrabuddin. He told the court that Sohrabuddin had gotten in touch with a gangster named Naeem Khan in Hyderabad, as the latter wanted help in contacting gangster Dawood Ibrahim.