IN THE alleged fake encounters of Sohrabuddin Shaikh and Tulsiram Prajapati, the deposition of investigating officers commenced on Tuesday. Gujarat CID officer N K Barot, who had recorded the statements of two witnesses, said he had taken down facts as narrated by them. The two witnesses, Malde Odedera and Sajjan Oredera, who deposed before the trial court on December 11, 2017, had denied their statements and were declared hostile.
The statements pertained to a Qualis vehicle, which the CBI alleges, was borrowed by Gujarat IPS officer R K Pandiyan from his friend and used in the abduction of Sohrabuddin, his wife Kausarbi and associate Prajapati on November 21 and 22 in 2005. Pandiyan’s discharge by the trial court in 2016 was upheld on Monday by the Bombay High Court, which said there was not sufficient evidence to frame charges against him.
According to Barot, Malde was the cousin of Premjibhai Cham, a businessman based in Gujarat. Barot said as per the statement recorded by him, Malde had told him that on November 18, 2005 Premjibhai came to him and told him that a Qualis vehicle belonging to him was called for by Pandiyan. As per the statement, Malde had further said on November 23, 2005 Pandiyan had called him and asked him to collect the vehicle after using it between November 18 and 23. Similarly, according to the statement of Sajjan recorded by Barot, he was informed by Malde that the Qualis was taken by Pandiyan and that it was brought back on November 23. Sajjan had also said the number plate of the vehicle was broken at that time and a new one was prepared. Both Malde and Sajjan denied all these facts before the trial court claiming they were never told anything about Pandiyan.
The CBI claimed that a police team from Gujarat had left from Ahmedabad to Andhra Pradesh on November 20 in vehicles, including the Qualis, and the abduction took place on the intervening night of November 21 and 22, while Sohrabuddin, Kausarbi and Prajapati were on their way to Sangli from Hyderabad. The CBI also claimed that the number plate of the Qualis had been changed to substitute it with a Andhra Pradesh number plate to avoid suspicion. The Bombay High Court in its order on Monday said there was no evidence in respect of the registration number of the Qualis vehicle used by the police team for the alleged abduction. It further said the documentary evidence in terms of the in-and-out register of the Central Reserve Police Force, where the police team allegedly went on November 21, 2005, did not show the vehicle entering the campus.
Defence advocates representing the accused while cross-examining Barot claimed that he had recorded the two statements of Sajjan and Malde on his own, not as per the facts dictated by them. Barot denied the claim.
Barot, who was the police inspector, CID Crime, had also given a statement under section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code in 2012, when the CBI took over the probe.
In his statement, Barot had claimed that the then Inspector General of Police, CID Crime in 2006-07, Geeta Johri, had asked him to make an entry at a later date regarding Prajapati’s encounter to shift the burden of a delay in probe away from her. The reference regarding Barot’s statement, however, was not recorded as Johri had been discharged from the case in March 2015.
The deposition of investigating officials from Gujarat CID and CBI will continue this week. Over 30 investigators are expected to be examined.