Twenty-seven of the 40 prosecution witnesses in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh alleged fake encounter case have turned hostile over the past two months, The Indian Express reported on Thursday.

On November 29, 2017, the special Central Bureau of Investigation court had barred the media from covering the trial proceedings, but the Bombay High Court struck down this order on Wednesday.

However, over the past two months, eyewitnesses to the alleged abduction of Sheikh, his wife Kausarbi and associate Tulsiram Prajapati have retracted their earlier statements, and police officers have refused to recognise their former colleagues, The Indian Express reported.

The prosecution declared one set of witnesses hostile after they failed to corroborate their previous statements about the abduction of the trio from a bus en route to Sangli in Maharashtra in November 2005. These witnesses are the bus driver, cleaner, two co-passengers and a man who gave tickets to the passengers.

The witnesses were confronted with their previous statements recorded before a magistrate, but refused to admit them. They also denied that they were lying out of fear because Sheikh, his wife and associate had been killed.

A 41-year-old police constable, who had earlier told the CBI that he had accompanied the police team that killed Sohrabuddin, had denied in December 2017 that he was ever part of any such team. He claimed he did not recognise the accused policemen, and that the Crime Investigation Department had forced him to make a statement to their satisfaction in 2005.

Another witness who has turned hostile is Sheikh’s sister, who deposed on January 4 through a video-conference link from a jail in Hyderabad. She said the CBI had not inquired with her anytime after the alleged encounter. She also denied telling the investigative agency that Sheikh and his wife had visited their house in Hyderabad in November 2005.

Other witness who retracted their previous statements include the owner of the vehicle that was believed to have been used in the alleged abduction, the employees of the farmhouse where the three were allegedly confined, and the employees of the crane and tempo service that were allegedly used to dispose of Kausarbi’s body.

The court will continue to examine the witnesses in the case from February 1.