Sohrabuddin encounter case: Bombay high court raps CBI for failing to protect witnesses, lacking seriousness in trial
‘Is it not your duty to protect the witnesses?’ Justice Mohite-Dere asked additional solicitor general Anil Singh, who represented the CBI, and reminded the him that ‘it was the CBI’s duty to protect witnesses’.mumbai Updated: Feb 12, 2018 23:26 IST
The Bombay high court on Monday rapped the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for ‘failing’ to protect witnesses in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh ‘fake encounter’ case and for lacking seriousness in prosecuting those accused in the case.
“What protection are you giving to the witnesses in the case?” Justice Revati Mohite-Dere asked additional solicitor general Anil Singh, who represented the central agency. The question came after senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, who argued for IPS officer Dr Narendra Amin, pointed out that the witness on whose statement the CBI had relied had turned hostile.
“Is it not your duty to protect the witnesses?”Justice Mohite-Dere asked Singh, and reminded the additional solicitor general that “it was the CBI’s duty to protect witnesses [from being intimidated or lured by accused persons].”
Irked with the fact that most of the prosecution witnesses examined before the special CBI court in the city have turned hostile, the judge also commented that the central agency lacked seriousness with which it ought to have conducted the trial.
“You cannot just file a charge sheet and leave it at that,” said the judge, who felt that “the very objective behind transferring the case from Gujarat to Mumbai — to ensure a fair trial, as the accused persons were very influential — was frustrated by lack of seriousness and inaction on part of the CBI in protecting the witnesses”.
On November 23, 2005, Sheikh, a local gangster, was travelling on a Hyderabad-Sangli bus along with his wife Kausarbi and aide Tulsiram Prajapati when they were allegedly abducted by a team of policemen attached to the Gujarat anti-terrorist squad and members of the Special Task Force from Rajasthan. The couple was allegedly detained at a private farm house and two days later, Sheikh was killed in a “fake encounter.” Kausarbi was allegedly killed the next day.
Tulsiram, who had been shown arrested in a case in Rajasthan, was killed in December 2006 — again in an allegedly fake encounter. Sheikh was accused of extorting money from marble traders in Rajasthan, and according to the CBI, the traders had given a “contract” to the Gujarat and Rajasthan police to eliminate him.