WITH THE CENTRAL Bureau of Investigation (CBI) not planning to challenge the discharge of those named as prime accused in the Sohrabuddin encounter case, who were recently let off by the court, the trial court is likely to go ahead with the framing of the charges in the case. On August 1, the court had discharged then Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad chief D G Vanzara and Rajasthan-cadre IPS officer Dinesh M N, the alleged prime accused in the case. Framing of a charge is the commencement of a trial and only those against whom charges are framed by the court stand trial.
According to an official, of the 37 accused, 15, including BJP president Amit Shah, have been granted discharge. While a few were granted discharge for want of prosecution sanction, the others were let off for lack of evidence against them. In these circumstances, contesting their discharge in a higher court with the same set of evidence might not adduce the confidence of the court, sources said.
“While appealing against the discharge, one cannot produced new evidence. It has to be argued on the same evidence produced before the lower court. The higher court, while deciding in favour of the applicant, must be convinced that there has been no application of mind by the judge while discharging an accused. In this case, the judge has detailed out the reasons behind discharging the accused and it is hard to contest them before the higher court and, therefore, the agency has decided not to challenge the discharge and go ahead with the trial,” said an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
In November 2005, while allegedly gunning down Sohrabuddin Sheikh, the Gujarat Police had claimed that Sheikh had links with Pakistan-based terror outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba.
In 2010, the Supreme Court had asked the CBI to investigate the case. The probe by the agency had revealed that Sohrabuddin and his wife Kausar Bi were allegedly abducted by Gujarat ATS from Hyderabad on their way to Sangli in Maharashtra and killed. Prajapati, an eyewitness in the case, was allegedly eliminated by the Gujarat Police in December 2006.
In September 2012, the CBI chargesheeted 37 accused, including BJP president Amit Shah, former State Director General of Police P P Pandey, the then Inspector General of Police (CID) Geetha Johri and former IPS officer DG Vanzara under various sections of the IPC, including those for murder (302), criminal conspiracy (120(B)), and destruction of evidence (201).
In its chargesheet, the CBI had claimed that Prajapati had confided in his fellow inmates that he and Sohrabuddin had threatened the owners of RK Marbles (Patni) and demanded a ransom of Rs 25 crore from him. “After negotiations between the two parties, RK Marbles had even agreed to pay a lesser amount, but subsequently they took their case to Gulab Chand Kataria, the then home minister of Rajasthan, who then met his Gujarat counterpart Amit Shah and got Sohrabuddin killed in a staged encounter by the Gujarat Police,” the CBI chargesheet stated.
In September 2012, at the CBI’s request, the Sohrabuddin encounter case was transferred to Mumbai for “fair trial”.
In 2013, the Supreme Court had clubbed Prajapati’s encounter killing case with that of Sheikh.
The trial court discharged twelve accused, including Shah, Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria, Rajasthan-based businessman Vimal Patni, former Gujarat Police chief P P Pandey, Additional Director General of Police Geetha Johri, Gujarat Police officer Abhay Chudasama, Gujarat Police official N K Amin, Yashpal Chudasama and Ajay Patel (both senior office-bearers at the Ahmedabad District Co-operative Bank) for lack of evidence, stating that the agency had heavily relied on “hearsay” evidence and had failed to adduce its confidence.