Mumbai: The final arguments in the politically-sensitive case of the twin encounters of Sohrabuddin Anwar Shaikh and Tulsiram Prajapati, and the brutal rape-cum-murder of Kausar Bi, started on Monday in a Special CBI Court here. Special Judge S.J. Sharma had fixed the December 3 date after completing the recording of statements of accused under Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) Section 313, and their lawyers failed to produce any defence witnesses in the case.
The verdict in the high-profile case, which involved 22 other accused is expected by December-end. The alleged “fake encounters” of gangsters Sohrabuddin and Prajapati, and the disappearance of the former’s wife, Kausar Bi, took place in 2005-2006, creating a major political storm in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled Gujarat. The prosecution’s case was that Sohrabuddin was linked with the terror outfit Lashkar-e-Tayiba and was allegedly conspiring to assassinate “an important political leader”, presumably, the then state Chief Minister, and now Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A total of 37 people were accused in the case, of which 16 were discharged in 2014, including 15 by the Special CBI Court Mumbai, and one by Bombay High Court. Among those discharged were the then Gujarat Home Minister and now BJP President Amit Shah, the then Rajasthan Home Minister G.C. Kataria, the ‘encounter specialist’ and former Deputy Inspector-General from Gujarat D.G. Vanzara, who at the relevant time headed the Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) in that state, and then IPS officer N.K. Amin and 12 other police officials.
Following a Central Bureau of Investigation plea, the Supreme Court ordered the case to be shifted out of Gujarat to Mumbai in September 2012, and it also clubbed the Sohrabuddin and Prajapati cases. During the trial in the past over a decade a total 210 prosecution witnesses were examined, of which 92 turned hostile. “Dreaded criminal” Sohrabuddin, who possessed 40 AK-47 assault rifles, was eliminated in an alleged “staged killing” on November 26, 2005 by the Gujarat ATS near state capital Gandhinagar. His wife had disappeared and she presumably met the same fate, the investigators later said.
The case shot to prominence for the alleged involvement of several high-profile politicians and IPS officers, making it one of the most politically-sensitive cases. Later, Sohrabuddin’s associate, Prajapati — who was the prime witness to the alleged “fake encounters” — was arrested and then gunned down in an encounter in December 2006 near Udaipur in Rajasthan, after the police claimed he attempted to escape from their custody. Among other things, the two were said to be allegedly linked in various other major crimes, including the killing of former Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya in March 2003.