Mumbai: Senior lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani today told the Bombay High Court that the alleged fake encounter case of gangster Sohrabuddin Shaikh was cooked up by a “politically motivated” CBI in 2005, and the agency is now “much more balanced”. Appearing for Rajkumar Pandian, an IPS officer discharged from the case, Jethmalani said Shaikh and his aide Tulsiram Prajapati, who was also killed in another alleged fake encounter, were notorious gangsters, wanted by police in three states.
Arguing before the court against a petition challenging Pandian’s discharge, he claimed Shaikh was a terrorist with links to the fugitive mafia don Dawood Ibrahim. “Sohrabuddin was a terrorist. He had been in touch with Dawood Ibrahim, who had provided him with a large cache of arms to propagate anti-national activities in the country.
“Both Sohrabuddin and Prajapati were criminals and extortionists who had several cases registered against them,” Jethmalani said. Sohrabuddin was wanted by police in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, he said. “The police had been trying to arrest them. When Sohrabuddin was finally arrested in 2005 and was possibly shot by the police while he was trying to flee, the politically motivated CBI of that time built a story of a fake encounter,” Jethmalani said, obliquely targeting the then UPA government. The high court, which is hearing petitions against discharge of some of the accused, asked what he meant by politically motivated CBI of “that time”.
“What are you trying to say?” asked Justice Revati Mohite-Dere. Jethmalani replied that he was merely saying that the CBI “today is much more balanced.” The judge shot back, asking “Is that why it refuses to provide any assistance to this court?” Justice Mohite-Dere has been conducting day-to-day hearing of petitions filed by the CBI and Rubabuddin Shaikh, Sohrabuddin’s brother, challenging the discharge of five of the 14 police officers accused in the case, since February 9.
Sohrabuddin was killed in an alleged fake encounter by Gujarat police in November 2005, while Prajapati, a witness to the killing, was shot dead in another staged encounter by Gujarat and Rajasthan police in December 2006. Sohrabuddin’s wife Kausar Bi, who was with him, disappeared and was believed to have been killed and her body burnt to destroy evidence.
Of the 38 people charged by the CBI in the case, 15, including senior IPS officers D G Vanzara, Pandian and Dinesh MN, and BJP president Amit Shah were discharged by the special CBI court in Mumbai between August 2016 and September 2017. Shah was the minister of state for home in Gujarat when the encounters took place. Currently, the HC is hearing the arguments of Pandian’s lawyer, opposing Rubabuddin’s plea challenging his discharge.
Jethmalani also said that though Pandian was in Ahmedabad on the day of Sohrabuddin’s death, the IPS officer had no role in it. While the CBI’s primary evidence was the testimony of Nathuba Jadeja, the driver of the vehicle in which Sohrabuddin and Kausar Bi were taken to the site of the encounter, he was an unreliable witness, the lawyer said.
In his statement before the magistrate, Jadeja had said that Pandian was sitting in the same vehicle, and Pandian and Vanzara were present when Kausar Bi’s body was burnt. However, during his cross-examination before the special CBI court where the trial is under way, Jadeja turned hostile, the lawyer pointed out. The hearing will continue tomorrow.