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Sohrab case returns to haunt

india Updated: Sep 10, 2009 01:33 IST
Satya Prakash
Satya Prakash
Hindustan Times
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Over two years after a Special Investigative Team (SIT) headed by senior Gujarat Police officer Geeta Johri completed probe into the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, the Supreme Court is seriously considering handing it over to another SIT headed by former CBI Director R K Raghvan for a fresh probe.

Raghvan’s SIT is probing the role of Chief Minister Narendra Modi and other politicians into the 2002 post-Godhra riots.

A bench of Justice Tarun Chatterjee and Justice Aftab Alam said the question has arisen due to allegations that the investigations by the Gujarat police SIT was just an "eye-wash" and an attempt to cover up the conspiracy leading to the murder of Sohrabuddin and his wife Kausar Bi.

“The state has to go to the bottom of the case. The investigation has to be beyond all doubts," the bench said while hearing a petition filed by Sohrabuddin’s brother Rubabuddin for an impartial probe into the killings.

The court will further hear it on September 16.

Sohrabuddin, an alleged gangster, was killed by the Gujarat police in a fake encounter on November 26, 2006 and after couple of days his wife Kauser Bi too was allegedly shot dead and her body burnt.

The SC had on May 18, 2007 declined to hand over the probe to the CBI and instead formed an SIT headed by senior Gujarat Police officer Geeta Johri to investigate the case.

The SIT completed the probe and filed its first chargesheet on July 16, 2007 and a supplementary one on December 10, 2007 – naming 13 police officials including three senior IPS officers — D.G. Vanzara (DIG), R.K. Pandian (both Gujarat cadre) and Dinesh MN of Rajasthan cadre.

The SC stayed the trial on September 30, 2008 and ordered Gujarat HC Registrar to seal all records following allegations of mishandling of the case.

Senior counsel Dushyant Dave (for Rubabuddin) and Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium, who is assisting the court as amicus curiae (court’s friend) have demanded a fresh investigation by the CBI or the SIT headed by Raghvan accusing Johri of scuttling the probe to save the accused police officials.

Citing the latest reports about Ishrat Jahan encounter being fake, Dave said Gujarat was a failed state where the police, prosecution and even the judiciary was pliable.

On behalf of Gujarat Government, senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi vehemently opposed the plea on the ground that the issue of court’s power to order CBI probe without state’s consent was pending before a Constitution bench and the SIT probe was already over.