The Supreme Court on Monday rejected former National Advisory Council (NAC) member and social activist Harsh Mander’s petition challenging BJP president Amit Shah’s discharge in the 2005 Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, saying he has no locus standi in the matter.
A small-time gangster, Sheikh and his wife, Kauser Bi, were killed while travelling from Hyderabad to Sangli in Maharashtra near Gandhinagar in 2005.
Mander had sought the quashing of the December 30, 2014, order of a Mumbai sessions court discharging Shah in the murder case. He then approached the Bombay high court against the sessions court order but the HC in March this year refused to go into the merits of the discharge order on the ground that Mander was not an aggrieved party in the case.
The former bureaucrat petitioned the HC after Sohrabuddin’s brother withdrew his appeal against Shah’s discharge, which was not even challenged by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
“Only a genuinely aggrieved person can challenge the discharge under the criminal jurisprudence. One must realise the impact of allowing such a petition, which is this person can be interminably prosecuted,” a bench headed by justice SA Bobde told Mander’s counsel senior advocate Kapil Sibal.
With the SC order and none of the affected parties standing against the trial court verdict the relief given to Shah appears to be final.
“When the person is genuinely aggrieved then the issue takes a different colour but when the person is not remotely connected and wants to revive the case then it’s a different matter,” the bench noted after hearing Mander and Shah’s advocates for over half an hour.
But Sibal underlined public faith to argue Mander’s case. He said: “Public must get the feeling that nobody is above the law”. To this, the court said it does not consider anyone “above the law”.
Sibal argued that the HC must decide Mander’s plea on merits without getting into technicalities such as the petitioner’s locus. “Let the CBI find out why the CBI turned turtles. Even his (Sohrabuddin) brother who filed the case against Shah withdrew his case later,” he said.
Sibal contended the CBI filed a charge sheet and named Shah as accused number 16. “It is a case of murder,” the senior counsel said.
Shah’s counsel, senior advocate Harish Salve, questioned the locus of Mander in the case. “This court has already held that if one is not connected with the case, he cannot interfere with anyone’s trial,” Salve told the bench.
Opposing the prayer, Salve said, “It cannot be a case that if State is not going to file an appeal, I will file the appeal.”