The special CBI Court presided over by judge SJ Sharma on Friday acquitted all the 22 accused in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case for “lack of substantial evidence”.
“The evidences that came before the court were inadequate to prove the conspiracy theory that the prosecution had presented,” Sharma said as he started delivering the judgment at 12 noon.
“The depositions before the court were not satisfactory to prove the conspiracy theory. Also, the circumstantial evidences that the prosecution tried to produce before the court had gaps,” the court said and added, “It failed to convince the court”.
Judge Sharma also said that the abduction theory in case of Tulsiram Prajapati, the close aide of Soharabuddin Shaikh, too doesn’t stand.
“The name of the third person is not known. It appears in the charge sheet only after the person is found killed. Those mentions too are based on hearsay of the said prison inmates. It can not be called concrete evidence,” the judge said.
While commenting on the way the prosecution counsels fought the case, the court observed that they made all their best efforts. 92 of the total 210 witnesses, including three key witnesses, had turned hostile during the trial. “But, the prosecution can’t be blamed for that if the witnesses don’t say anything,” the judge said.
Of the 22 accused acquitted today, 21 are junior-level police officials from Gujarat and Rajasthan. The other was the owner of a farm house in Gujarat where Sheikh and Kausar Bi were allegedly illegally detained before their death.
The court had earlier discharged, 16 of the 38 persons charged by the CBI on similar grounds of inadequacy of the evidence. They include BJP president Amit Shah, then Rajasthan home minister Gulabchand Kataria and former senior Gujarat police officers P.C. Pande and D.G. Vanzara.
Soharabuddin Sheikh’s brother Rubabuddin was the first person to raise questions about Soharbuddin’s death and had sought justice from the Supreme Court. After hearing the verdict today, he accused the judge and the CBI of being corrupt and acting on behest of the then rulers of Gujarat. “We shall move to the higher court for justice,” he said.
Who was Sohrabuddin Sheikh?
A hardened criminal in his mid-thirties, Sohrabuddin Sheikh belonged to Zarnia village in Madhya Pradesh. He operated in Udaipur, Ahmedabad and Ujjain. According to Gujarat police, he had links with Pakistan-based terror outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba.
A history-sheeter with several serious crimes registered against him, he was booked for arms smuggling in 1995. He ran an extortion racket. In 2002, he teamed up with Prajapati and killed his rival Hamid Lala.
He had threatened the Patni brothers of Rajasthan-based R K Marbles in 2004 and demanded extortion money. The harassed marble traders lobby from Gujarat and Rajasthan contacted then Gujarat home minister Amit Shah.
A plan was hatched and orders were given to Vanzara. All this is said to have happened while there were no cases registered against him in Gujarat.
HOW IT HAPPENED
November 22-23, 2005: Sohrabuddin Shaikh, his wife Kausar Bi and close aide Tulsiram Prajapati allegedly picked up by Gujarat Police from Sangli in Maharashtra, while on their way from Hyderabad to Ahmedabad by bus.
November 26: Sohrabuddin allegedly killed in a fake encounter near Ahmedabad.
November 28: Kauser Bi allegedly raped and murdered. Her body was burnt.
December 2005: Sheikh’s brother, Rubabuddin, writes to the Chief Justice of India demanding a probe into the killing of his brother. The SC orders Gujarat police to probe how he was killed and what happened to Kausar Bi.
November 2006: Journalist Prashant Dayal gets to know of the fake encounter from drunk policemen, publishes story in Dainik Bhaskar.
December 28, 2006: Prajapati killed in police officer D G Vanzara’s village Chapri.
April 2007: Deputy Inspector General D G Vanjara arrested in the case.
January, 2010: SC hands over case to CBI.
July 23, 2010: CBI charge-sheets Shah as accused. He was also charged with destruction of evidence and booked under the Arms Act.
July 25, 2010: CBI arrests Shah.
October 29, 2010: Gujarat HC grants bail to Shah for lack of evidence.
September 27, 2012: SC transfers trial from Gujarat to Mumbai.
April 8, 2013: SC clubs Prajapati case with Sohrabuddin case.
September 2013: Still in jail, Vanzara writes to Gujarat government, accusing the government of ordering the fake encounters and then ensuring that police officers remained in prison to save their own skin.
December 30, 2014: CBI court gives a clean chit to Shah in the case.
August 1, 2016: SC rejects petition challenging the discharge of Shah.
August 1, 2017: CBI drops charges against Vanzara and others.
December 3, 2018: Final arguments begin in the case.