Mumbai: The CBI Tuesday urged the Bombay High Court to dismiss a PIL that questions the probe agency’s decision not to challenge the discharge granted to BJP chief Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin Shaikh fake encounter case. Appearing for the CBI, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh argued that the PIL, filed by the Bombay Lawyers Association, was merely a publicity stunt.
Singh argued that since Shah had been granted a discharge by a special CBI court in the city in December 2014, several pleas challenging it were filed in the high court and subsequently withdrawn or dismissed. The Supreme Court, too, had upheld the dismissal of several such pleas challenging the discharge granted to Shah and therefore, there was no need for the Bombay High Court to entertain the above PIL, Singh argued.
In the public interest litigation (PIL) filed in January, the association claimed that the CBI’s decision to challenge the discharge of some police officers, and not the discharge granted to Shah was “discriminatory”.
“Why should a central agency pick and choose whose discharge to challenge? They must be directed to explain the reason why they (CBI) chose not to challenge in Shah’s case and they must be directed to file a plea to challenge the special court’s decision granting discharge to Shah,” petitioner’s lawyer Ahmad Abdi said.
Singh, however, pointed out that Abdi’s plea was the fourth round of litigation challenging Shah’s discharge and was “devoid of any merit”. He informed a bench of justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre that Shah’s discharge was first challenged in the Bombay High Court through a revision application filed by Shaikh’s brother Rubabuddin.
However, Rubabuddin withdrew his challenge on October 5, 2015. A single bench of Bombay High Court allowed him to do so on November 23, 2015, after it was satisfied that he was doing so voluntarily. “The high court judgement shows that it gave Rubabuddin enough time to reflect on his decision and change it if necessary. Before allowing the withdrawal, the court heard him in the chamber to ascertain whether it was indeed voluntary,” Singh said.
Soon after, a man named Rajesh M Kamble filed a revision application against the discharge granted to Shah. Kamble claimed that he was doing so in his capacity of being ‘an alert citizen’. The Bombay High Court, however, dismissed his plea on October 21, 2015 questioning his locus standi (his right, or the capacity in which he could have filed the plea) in the case.
Then, social activist Harsh Mander filed a writ petition in the Bombay High Court challenging the discharge and questioning Rubabuddin’s withdrawal. The plea was dismissed subsequently by the high court and the dismissal was upheld by the Supreme Court in August 2017. “In all these judgements of dismissal, the high court has recorded several reasons why such pleas should not be allowed. Besides, the Supreme Court has laid down specific grounds in its previous orders clarifying what qualifies as a public interest litigation,” Singh argued.
“The present case, however, is not a PIL, but a publicity interest litigation and should be dismissed,” Singh told the court. The bench has now directed the CBI to file a compilation of all the judgements cited above by October 3. At the end of the day’s hearing in the case, the bench was also informed that a new PIL has been filed by a local journalist in the case and that it has the same prayers as that in Abdi’s plea. The high court has tagged the two matters and will hear them together on October 3, the next date of hearing.