A key witness in the 2005 Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case on Saturday told a trial court in Mumbai that former Gujarat police officer DG Vanzara had given Sheikh a contract to kill senior BJP leader and former state Home Minister Haren Pandya, The Indian Express reported. Pandya was murdered in Ahmedabad in 2003.
Witness Azam Khan said while Sheikh claimed to have received the contract, his aide Tulsiram Prajapati claimed he had murdered Pandya. Khan was an associate of both Sheikh and Prajapati.
The Gujarat Police killed Sheikh, a wanted criminal, 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 allegedly by the Gujarat and Rajasthan police, abducted and shot dead near Gandhinagar. A sub-inspector also allegedly raped Kauserbi before she was murdered.
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.
Khan, an Udaipur-based gangster, alleged that Central Bureau of Investigation officer NS Raju in 2010 had refused to record this as a part of the statement.
“During discussion with Sohrabuddin, he told me that he, along with Naeem Khan and Shahid Rampuri, got the contract to kill Home Minister Haren Pandya of Gujarat and they killed him,” Khan told court. “I felt sad and I told Sohrabuddin that they have killed a good person. Sohrabuddin told me that the contract was given to him by Vanzara.”
The Congress on Sunday demanded an inquiry into Khan’s allegations. “This fresh evidence must be treated with due respect, an inquiry must be ordered by the Supreme Court,” said party spokesperson Tom Vadakkan. “It should be monitored by the Supreme Court because of the sensitivity of the matter and the attempts to cover it up.”
Vadakkan requested that Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh provide protection to such witnesses. He also demanded that the role of then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and then Home Minister Amit Shah be investigated.
In 2007, a trial court in Gujarat found 12 people guilty of Pandya’s murder and sentenced nine of them to life imprisonment. But the Gujarat High Court acquitted all of them in 2011. An appeal against the acquittals is pending before the Supreme Court.
In April last year, a special CBI court discharged Vanzara in the case of Sheikh’s alleged fake encounter.