More than 100 Indian Police Service (IPS) officers have signed up a campaign to raise money for the defence of Vipul Aggarwal, a 2001 batch officer jailed for nine months in the Tulsiram Prajapati encounter case.
A joint team of Rajasthan and Gujarat police killed Prajapati on December 27, 2006 in Banaskantha district in Gujarat, where Aggarwal was SP. Prajapati was an associate of Sohrabuddin - an extortionist allegedly mixed up with police and politicians including former home minister of Gujarat Amit Shah - who was killed in a previous encounter in December 2005.
IPS officers D G Vanzara, R K Pandian and M N Dinesh were involved in both the encounters and all are in jail. The CBI, which investigated Sohrabuddin's killing had suspected that Prajapati was eliminated because he was a witness to the first encounter.
Aggarwal's case is different and he's innocent, say his friends and the fraternity. The Gujarat CID has charged Aggarwal without any material evidence and the court has refused him bail. Aggarwal was not present at the encounter site; in fact he requested a magisterial inquiry into it subsequently.
He has been charged with murder on the grounds that he had been in touch with D G Vanzara - who was then his superior as DIG Border Range - and spoke to sub inspector Ashish Pandya who was part of the police team that killed Prajapati. "How can talking to his boss or a person under him make him culpable of anything?" wondered an IPS officer.It's intriguing the way Aggarwal - who has been vilified along with the rest of the gang - got caught in the mess. He returned to work from long leave, on December 20, seven days before the encounter.
Aggarwal met Vanzara - who had taken charge as DIG in the meantime, on December 22. Three days later, the DIG asked Aggarwal to get SI Ashish Pandya to talk to him.
On December 27, Udaipur SP MN Dinesh officially sought help from Aggarwal to nab Prajapati, who he said had escaped from custody and was in Banaskantha. Agarwal asked Pandya's team to assist the Rajasthan team and went on a night inspection of police stations under him. In the morning he was informed of the encounter, following which he had a series of conversations with Vanzara and Dinesh.
In 2010, the Supreme Court sent the Sohrabuddin case to the CBI, and was to consider sending the Prajapati case also to it.
The Gujarat CID - which had been pulled up by the SC for trying to derail the Sohrab investigations - suddenly arrested Aggarwal in the Prajapati case in May 2010.
Aggarwal was the best probationer in his batch, a CBSE class ten topper and among the top 50 in the all India medical entrance test.
In a community where reputations fly fast, he is rated as an "extraordinarily honest and upright officer." He was never part of the ATS or the crime branch and had no motive to kill Prajapati.
"He had all of Rs 23,000 when he was arrested. We have raised some Rs 6 lakh to fight his case so far and many more are coming forward," a batch-mate said.