Only 22 of the 38 people accused in the alleged fake encounter cases of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife Kausarbi in 2005 and his associate Tulsiram Prajapati in 2006 stood trial, The Indian Express reported on Tuesday. The initial list of accused individuals had included Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah, ministers and police officers from Gujarat and Rajasthan.
The inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation had included Shah, who was Gujarat’s home minister at the time, Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria and senior Indian Police Service officers. In 2010, the Supreme Court had ordered the central investigating agency to take over the case from the Gujarat Criminal Investigation Department.
A trial court had dropped the charges against 15 of the accused, including Shah, Kataria and all the IPS officers, except former Gujarat Anti-terror Squad chief Vipul Aggarwal. The court had cited lack of sanction to prosecute or lack of evidence as reasons for its decision.
The current list of accused include inspectors, assistant inspectors, sub-inspectors and constables from Rajasthan, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh who are facing allegations of conspiracy.
On Monday, the Bombay High Court approved Aggrawal’s discharge in the case after the trial court rejected his petition twice. The Bombay High Court also upheld the discharge of five Gujarat and Rajasthan policemen, including former Inspector General of Gujarat DG Vanzara, police officers Rajkumar Pandian and Dinesh MN.
During the hearing, the court had said it would not be affected by the fact that several witnesses have turned hostile in the trial court in the case. Out of the 176 witnesses examined at that time, 91 were declared hostile.
Sheikh was a wanted criminal killed by the Gujarat Police in an encounter in November 2005, which is alleged to have been staged. Sheikh and his wife Kauserbi were travelling by bus from Hyderabad to Sangli in Maharashtra when they were stopped by the Gujarat and Rajasthan police, abducted and shot dead near Gandhinagar. A sub-inspector also allegedly raped Kauserbi before she was murdered.
Sheikh’s aide Tulsiram Prajapati was the sole witness to the murders. He was in police custody after the incident but was shot dead in another encounter in December 2006 when the police claimed he was trying to escape from custody.