Mukul Sinha, a scientist-turned-lawyer, has been consistently taking on the Gujarat government on the issue of Godhara and post Godhara riots and fake encounter cases. An alumnus of IIT Kanpur, Sinha’s work in fake encounter cases of Sohrabuddin, Tulsiram Prajapati, Ishrat Jahan and Sadiq Jamal has led to the CBI investigations. His cross examinations of several important witnesses before the Nanavati commission on the 2002 Godhara riots brought out the role of the state authorities.
Critics have accused him of driving an agenda against Narendra Modi and Gujarat, but Sinha says his focus on Gujarat is only because he is based there.
When did you start working on the encounter cases in Gujarat?
In 2007, I got involved in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case in which several top policemen were arrested by Gujarat police and NK Amin and Dinesh MN had got bail within few days of their arrest.
I first appeared seeking cancellation of their bail and on our petition, the court cancelled their bail and they are in jail since then. In 2008, Ishrat’s family approached me and I agreed to take up the matter.
Now advocate Vrinda Grover appears for Ishrat’s family while I represent Javed Sheikh’s family, who had approached me in 2009.
It was based on our petition that Justice Kalpesh Jhaveri of the Gujarat HC had formed a three-member SIT of Gujarat police to probe the case.
Subsequently, that SIT was disbanded and a new SIT was formed with chairman of the SIT from outside. From 2009 onwards, we are full time into these cases with a number of litigations from lower court to high court and apex court.
Was there a common pattern in the Gujarat fake encounters?
Yes, definitely! As we got involved in these cases, we first studied all FIRs filed by Gujarat police when they carried out these encounters.
There is a striking pattern in all the FIRs like the same team of policemen Vanjara, NK Amin, GL Singhal; all the killings carried out in Ahmedabad; and the allegation that all of them had come to kill Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and had Pakistan links.
I found this whole thing very fishy and started digging. When I took up the Sadiq case, I found it shocking that a scooter mechanic was branded as a terrorist and killed by the police when there was no evidence against him.
There are allegations that your human rights activism and legal work are motivated against the Gujarat government.
Well, we have been working in Gujarat even before this government came to power and the 2002 riots and subsequent fake encounters are not the only issues we are working on.
Secondly, in Manipur also, we have taken six matters of alleged fake encounters and appeared in court in Imphal and in Delhi regarding those matters.
But since I am settled in Gujarat, much of my work is related to the state. Besides these cases, our team handles cases for labourers, civic amenities, slum dwellers etc.
Why do you keep harping on the political role?
If there is no political involvement, why would the police kill so many people branding them as terrorists on a mission to target some high profile leader.
In the Sohrabuddin case, home ministers of Gujarat and Rajasthan have been charge sheeted and it turned out that extortion was the main motive for killing Sohrabuddin, not that he was out to kill Modi.
But the people who were killed with Ishrat were terrorists, right?
In this case, there is absolutely no connection of Ishrat with any dubious outfit and same is the case with Javed Sheikh also. Other two guys were from Kashmir but no conclusive proof is available to link them with any terror outfit.
But there were intelligence inputs that said these people were terrorists. Even the CBI charge sheet acknowledges at least one of them was a terrorist.
The most shocking part of all these fake encounters is that a few rogue officials of the intelligence establishment played a vital role in facilitating these extra judicial killings. Rajinder Kumar’s role in crucial.