‘I am Sorry’: CBI Judge Acquits All 22 Accused in Sohrabuddin Encounter Case, Says Not Enough Proof
A special CBI court on Friday acquitted 22 people accused in the alleged fake encounter killings of gangster Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife Kausar Bi and his associate Tulsi Prajapati due to lack of evidence.
Special CBI Judge SJ Sharma ruled the prosecution has failed to put forth any “documentary and substantive evidence” to suggest or establish the alleged conspiracy.
Delivering his last verdict, special CBI judge SJ Sharma said the witnesses and proof were not satisfactory to prove conspiracy and murder. The court also observed that circumstantial evidence was not substantial.
“Government machinery and prosecution put in a lot of effort, 210 witnesses were brought but satisfactory evidence didn’t come and witnesses turned hostile. No fault of prosecutor if witnesses don’t speak,” the judge, who was delivering his last verdict, said.
The judge said that he was “helpless” and that the court feels sorry for the families of Sohrabuddin and Prajapati as three lives were lost. However, the “system and law demands that the court goes solely by evidence”.
Of the accused, 21 are junior-level police officials from Gujarat and Rajasthan. The other was the owner of a farm house in Gujarat where Sheikh and Kausar Bi were illegally detained before they were allegedly killed.
Wahab Khan, the lawyer appearing for Sohrabuddin’s family, said the “court has accepted that Sohrabuddin was killed by a bullet that hit him but there is no proof that the 22 present in the court were one of the shooters.”
“The court observed that the witnesses who turned hostile had nothing to do with the defence,” said advocate Khan.
The prosecution examined 210 witnesses, of whom 92 turned hostile.
The court earlier discharged, for want of evidence, 16 of the 38 people charge-sheeted by the CBI. These included then Minister of State for Home in Gujarat Amit Shah, the then Rajasthan home minister Gulabchand Kataria, former Gujarat police chief PC Pande and former senior Gujarat police officer DG Vanzara.
The Bombay High Court had later rejected the plea of Sheikh’s brother Rubabuddin against the discharge of Vanzara and four other police officers. Gujarat police had claimed that Sohrabuddin was killed in an encounter in 2005 as he wanted to assassinate Narendra Modi, then Gujarat Chief Minister.
The CBI said Sohrabuddin, an alleged gangster, Kausar Bi and Prajapati were abducted by the Gujarat police from a bus when they were going to Sangli in Maharashtra from Hyderabad on the night of November 22-23, 2005.
Sohrabuddin was killed in an alleged fake encounter on November 26, 2005 near Ahmedabad, while his wife was killed three days later and her body disposed of, the CBI had said.
It said that a year later, on December 27, 2006, Prajapati was also shot dead by the Gujarat and Rajasthan police in an alleged fake encounter near Chapri on the Gujarat-Rajasthan border.