The wife of the witness in the Sohrabuddin Shaikh’s fake encounter case has approached the Rajasthan High Court seeking protection for her husband as she feared imminent threats to his life. Rizwana Khan, the wife of Azam Khan, has filed a criminal writ petition in the High Court claiming protection for her husband, who is currently lodged in the Udaipur Jail.
Azam Khan had earlier this month made a stunning deposition claiming that former Gujarat IPS officer DG Vanzara was the one who ordered the cold-blooded murder of former Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya. Pandya, who served as the Gujarat home minister under Narendra Modi as chief minister, was killed in 2003. Azam’s deposition had led many to suspect the involvement of big name politicians behind Pandya’s murder.
Rizwana, in her petition, has said that there was a ‘possibility of assassination’ of her husband because of his he was a witness in high profile cases such as the alleged fake encounters of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati.
Riawana’s petition said that her husband could not give his full testimony on 3 November because he was threatened by one of the accused, Abdul Rehman, who warned him to not name senior IPS officers such as ‘Abhay Chudasama, IPS officer from the Gujarat Police and MN Dinesh, IPS officer from the Rajasthan Police.’ Azam, however, went ahead and named Vanzara as being a part of the conspiracy to kill Pandya, the petition read.
According to the petition (read below), Rizwana suspected that her husband will be transferred to Ajmer Jail from Udaipur and ‘that he would be killed en route like Tulsiram Prajapati was.’ She added that her husband was threatened even in the past, forcing him to leave his house for several years.
“Petitioner has been forced to approach the Hon’ble Court as the petitioner and his family have been facing a growing number of threats in the past few months. The current phase of intimidation began on 7 June 2018, when the brothers of Azam Khan and his uncle were picked up by the Udaipur Police. Azam Khan’s mother was threatened by police officials that all three of them would not be let go unless Azam Khan testified as per their wishes,” Riawana’s petition read.
She said that they were released only after Rizwana’s mother-in-law filed a petition seeking action against the ‘errant police officials’ under Section 342 IPC. This led to the immediate release of Azam’s brothers and uncle.
Rizwana said that her husband was scared for his life particularly after ‘officials from Gopalpur Police Station, Haren Soba, Salim and Bhagwat Singh Hengar’ allegedly threatened that he will be killed on his way to Ajmer jail.
In his testimony on 3 November, Azam had told the trial court that he met Shaikh in 2002 and became good friends with him and his wife Kausar Bi and his associate Tulsiram Prajapati. Shaikh reportedly told him that the order to kill Pandya had come from ‘above.’
“During that time, Sohrabuddin told me he had got money from D G Vanzara to kill Gujarat’s home minister Haren Pandya and he completed the job. I then told him that what he did was wrong and he had killed a good person,” Azam had tol the court, according to news agency PTI.
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 and was believed to have been done to death.
Prajapati, an eyewitness to the encounter, was allegedly killed by police at Chapri village in Gujarat’s Banaskantha district in December 2006.
The Sohrabuddin killing case was transferred to Mumbai in September 2012 on the request of CBI for a fair trial. In 2013, the Supreme Court had clubbed the alleged fake encounter case of Prajapati with that of Sheikh.