The Bombay High Court on Friday asked the CBI why it had not challenged the trial court orders discharging senior IPS officers in the alleged fake encounter case of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati.
The court also expressed its displeasure over the CBI’s decision to only challenge the acquittal of sub-inspector level officers but not IPS officers including DG Vanzara.
The petition has been filed by Sohrabuddin’s brother Rubabuddin Sheikh, who has challenged the trial court orders of discharge.
Justice Revati Mohite-Dere said that the CBI should have been “equally aggrieved” with the trial court’s order. She asked the federal probe agency whether it was planning to challenge the trial court orders of August 2016 and August 2017 discharging IPS officers Rajkumar Pandiyan, DG Vanzara, and Dinesh MN.
On 1 August, the trial court had acquitted the then Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad chief DG Vanzara and Dinesh MN. Of the 37 accused, 15 including the BJP President Amit Shah have been discharged in the case. The CBI has challenged the discharge of only one officer- NK Amin, one of the key accused in the case.
Justice Revati Mohite-Dere also instructed the CBI counsel to refrain from framing of charges against any accused in the case until October 12, the next date of hearing in the HC.
His counsel Gautam Tiwari told the court that “citing the orders of discharge of the above three officials, several other accused persons too were securing discharge on the grounds of parity.”
The Special CBI court in Mumbai is hearing the case after the Supreme Court ordered the trial be transferred out of Gujarat.
The court discharged the officials on the ground that the CBI had failed to get prior sanction or the special permission to prosecute them and therefore they could not be prosecuted.
Justice Mohite-Dere, however, questioned whether the lack of such sanction alone could be adequate reason to warrant an accused person’s discharge from the case.
She also dismissed the CBI’s argument that it had challenged the discharge of two Rajasthan police sub- inspectors– Himanshu Singh and Shyam Singh Charan.
“You are opposing the discharge of sub-inspectors and constables. But what about the IPS officers? Can the sole ground of lack of sanction be reason for discharge? All the IPS officers accused in the case have been discharged, only one has been challenged. The law is the same for all applicants. And you (CBI) must be as aggrieved as the applicant (Rubabuddin) with the discharge orders,” Justice Mohite-Dere was quoted by PTI.
Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kausar Bi were allegedly abducted by the Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad from Hyderabad on their way to Sangli in Maharashtra. Sheikh was killed in an alleged fake encounter near Gandhinagar in November 2005, after which his wife disappeared.
Prajapati, an aide of Sheikh and a witness to the encounter, was allegedly killed by police in Chapri village in Gujarat’s Banaskantha district in December 2006.
Vanzara, who was heading the ATS at the time, was charged by the CBI of having conspired with the other accused officials to kill Sheikh and the other victims and pass the incident off as an encounter.