A Special CBI court Friday acquitted all 22 accused arrested in the alleged fake encounter killings of Sohrabuddin Shaikh and Tulsiram Prajapati along with the alleged murder of Shaikh’s wife, Kauser Bi.
Special judge S J Sharma said the prosecution had not been able to satisfactorily prove that the accused including 21 serving and retired police personnel from Gujarat, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh, were guilty of conspiracy, murder and other charges.
The court said that while the main foundation of the prosecution were key eyewitnesses, they turned hostile. The trial began in November 2017 and of the 210 witnesses who were examined, 92 turned hostile.
The case dates back to November 23, 2005, when Shaikh, a wanted criminal, his wife Kauser Bi and aide Prajapati were allegedly abducted from a luxury bus on their way to Sangli in Maharashtra from Hyderabad. While Shaikh and Kauser Bi were taken to Gujarat, Prajapati was shown to have been arrested from Bhilwara in Rajasthan on November 26, 2005.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) stated that the accused said Shaikh was a member of the terrorist organisation, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and was killed in an encounter on November 26, 2005, when he was in Gujarat to “assassinate a big political leader”.
However, Shaikh’s brother, Rubabuddin sent a letter to the Chief Justice of India in 2006, seeking an inquiry into the encounter alleging that it was staged. In 2006, based on the Supreme Court’s directions, in a preliminary inquiry, the then Gujarat police officer VL Solanki sought to examine Prajapati, stating that he was a witness to Shaikh’s abduction.
Solanki requested permission to examine Prajapati on December 18, 2006. Ten days later, Prajapati was allegedly killed in a staged encounter on December 28, 2006, also in Gujarat, stated the CBI. Prajapati’s mother, Narmadabai, also filed a petition before the Supreme Court, seeking an inquiry.
Based on the apex court’s directions, the Gujarat Criminal Investigation Department (CID) started investigating the case in 2007 and stated that the encounters were fake. It also said Kauser Bi was murdered and her body disposed of in Illol in Gujarat.
The CBI took over the case in 2010 and the case was transferred to Mumbai for a fair trial on the Supreme Court directions. Till then, 38 accused were booked, including IPS officers and ministers from Gujarat, Rajasthan, including present BJP president Amit Shah. However, 16 of the 38, including all IPS officers and ministers, were discharged between 2014 and 2017. Now, 22 accused, including 21 junior police personnel and one farmhouse owner, were acquitted.