Sohrabuddin Shaikh encounter: Three more witnesses turn hostile

They were important for the prosecution’s claim that the couple was confined to two farm houses after abduction

mumbai Updated: Feb 16, 2018 09:54 IST
Charul P Shah
Charul P Shah
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Sohrabuddin Shaikh,encounter
Sohrabuddin Shaikh and his wife were killed in an encounter in 2005.(HT)

In another setback to the prosecution, three more witnesses in the Sohrabuddin Shaikh encounter turned hostile on Thursday.

All of them were important for the prosecution’s claim that the slain gangster from Gujrat and his wife, Kausarbi, were confined to two farm houses near Ahmedabad after their abduction in November 2005.

So far, 35 witnesses have turned hostile. The prosecution has examined 49 witnesses.

The three men were panch witnesses to the statement of a driver who was then posted with the Gujarat anti-terrorism squad. Panch witnesses are the independent witnesses who are called by the police at various stages — from gathering evidence to recovery of articles — of investigation for corroboration.

The driver, Bhailalbhai Rathod, deposed in the court a month ago and was declared hostile. He had shown to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)  the places where the couple was confined after abduction.

According to the prosecution, Rathod drove one of the vehicles used by the accused for abducting the couple, and later transferring them to other places. His statement was first recorded by the Gujarat CID, before the case was transferred to the CBI.

According to the prosecution case, the couple was first taken to Disha Farm on Sarkhej Highway near Adalaj. They were kept there from November 23, 2005 to November 25, when Sohrabuddin was taken to Arham Farm House.

Rathod had, in his police statement of June 29, 2007, agreed to show to the Gujarat CID the places where the couple was confined. His statement was recorded in the presence of the three punch witnesses — two farmers and a priest — and the process was also video recorded.

The prosecution had summoned and examined the three punch witnesses to prove the recording of Rathod’s statement.

The trio too turned hostile. In an identical deposition, they said that they were never taken to the place and were asked by the state CID to sign a pre-written panchnama. One of the witnesses, a priest, told the court: “My friend and I were stopped by the police while we were passing from Koba circle. The police asked us to sign some papers.” The witness said he signed in good faith but, did not know what was written on those papers.

“I came to know about the matter only when the CBI came to take our statement again in 2010,” the priest said. He added that henceforth he will never sign anything in good faith and would also not help anyone, including the police.

CBI told to provide protection to ‘star witness’ from Rajasthan

A special CBI court conducting the trial in the Sohrabuddin Shaikh encounter ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to extend police protection to one of the important prosecution witnesses, who had also represented Sheikhs’ trusted lieutenant Tulsiram Prajapati at Udaipur in Rajasthan.

Prajapati was killed in an encounter on December 27, 2006.

The CBI has called the lawyer a star witness. It was through him that Prajapati expressed apprehension of threat to his own life after the encounter of Sohrabuddin by moving number of applications to various courts.

The lawyer had written a letter to the special court, seeking police protection as he too apprehended threat to his life while appearing as a witness in the case in the city. The lawyer has been summoned to appear before the court on February 27.

The court on Wednesday ordered the CBI to provide protection to the lawyer from his residence in Rajasthan to the court in the city and also for the return journey.

The lawyer, who has been practising at criminal courts in Udaipur since 1993, had represented Prajapati in the Hamid Lala murder case. Lala was alleged to have been killed by Prajapati and other accused on December 31, 2004, on Sohrabuddin’s instructions.

The lawyer — in his statement recorded on May 25, 2010 — said after the Sohrabuddin encounter, Prajapati was in a disturbed state of mind when he was produced before a court in Udaipur on December 11, 2005.

The lawyer said he had interacted with Prajapati after the hearing with the permission of the court. “On being asked, Prajapati confided that Gujarat and Rajasthan police had already killed Sohrabuddin and now they might also kill him. He further told that he was closely associated with Sohrabuddin and knew many things about him. The Gujarat police had used him Prajapati to trace Sohrabuddin,” read his statement.

First Published: Feb 16, 2018 09:53 IST