Sohrabuddin case: SC slams Guj Govt, orders CBI probe
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Last Updated: Tuesday, January 12, 2010, 23:32
New Delhi: The Narendra Modi Government in Gujarat on Tuesday suffered a major embarrassment with the Supreme Court directing a CBI probe into the alleged fake encounter of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and bumping off his wife Kauserbi and an accomplice.

In a hard-hitting judgement, a bench of Justices Tarun Chatterjee and Aftab Alam came down heavily on the Gujarat Government for failing to conduct impartial investigations and attempting to "mislead" the apex court by filing conflicting action taken reports (ATRs).

"From the above factual discrepancies appearing in eight Action Taken Reports and from the chargesheet, we, therefore, feel that the police authorities of the State of Gujarat had failed to carry out a fair and impartial investigation as we initially wanted them to do.

"It cannot be questioned that the offences the high police officials have committed was of grave nature which needs to be strictly dealt (with)," the apex court said while directing the CBI probe.

It asked the CBI to probe if there was any "larger conspiracy" to the killings and submit the report within six months for its perusal.

Suspended DIG D G Banjara and R K Pandiyan (both Gujarat cadre IPS officers) besides Dinesh M N (Rajasthan cadre IPS officer) are the main accused in the case of killing of alleged gangster Sohrabuddin Sheikh.

Sheikh was allegedly killed by the Gujarat cops with the help of Andhra Pradesh police claiming that he was planning to kill Chief Minister Modi.

The apex court minced no words in expressing displeasure at the failure of the Gujarat police's special investigation team headed by Inspector General of Police Geeta Johri to identify the seven Andhra Pradesh police personnel who assisted the local police in the encounter.

"From a careful examination of the materials on record including the eight Action Taken Reports submitted by the State Police Authorities and considering the respective submissions of the learned senior counsel for the parties, we are of the view that there are large and various discrepancies in such reports and the investigation conducted by the police authorities of the State of Gujarat and also the chargesheet filed by the State Investigating Agency cannot be said to have run in a proper direction.

"It appears from the charge sheet itself that it does not reveal the identity of police personnel of Andhra Pradesh even when it states that Sohrabbuddin and two others were picked up by Gujarat Police Personnel, accompanied by seven personnel of Hyderabad Police. It also appears from the chargesheet that Kausarbi was taken into one of the two Tata Sumo jeeps in which these police personnel accompanied the accused," the bench observed.

According to the apex court, though initially the investigations was proceeding in right direction under Inspector V L Solanki, subsequently there were attempts to scuttle the same and mislead the court on the progress.

"Mr V L Solanki, an investigating officer, was proceeding in the right direction, but Ms Johri had not been carrying out the investigation in the right manner, in view of our discussions made herein above.

"It appears that Ms Johri had not made any reference to the second report of Solanki, and that though his first report was attached with one of her reports, the same was not forwarded to this Court. Therefore, we are of the view that her mentioning the criminal background of Sohrabbuddin and the discussion among the accused officers concerning Sohrabbuddin was meant to obfuscate the enquiry," the apex court said.

The court lamented that the Gujarat Government deliberately attempted to mislead the court on the whereabouts of Sohrabuddin's wife Kauserbi and their family friend Tulsiram Prajapati who are also alleged to have been killed by police to destroy evidence.

"With respect to the killing of Kausarbi, it was only stated that she was seen in the company of the ATS personnel, on 26th of November, 2005 and her dead body was taken for cremation on 29th of November, 2005. It is not clear from the eight Action Taken Reports filed by the police authorities of the State of Gujarat as to what happened to Kausarbi in the meanwhile, nor is the mode of killing stated.

"From the chargesheet, it also appears that the third person was 'sent somewhere'. However, it appears that the literal translation of the chargesheet in Gujarati would mean that he was 'anyhow made to disappear'. From this, we are also satisfied that an attempt was made by the investigating agency of the State of Gujarat to mislead the Court," the apex court observed.

The bench said the Gujarat government made a false excuse against conducting narco-analysis of the accused by claiming that a judgement on its validity was pending before the apex court.

"In our view, it is merely an excuse for not being able to conduct the investigation relating to mode and manner of killing of Kausarbi."

The apex court said that it would be appropriate to order a CBI inquiry to instil confidence among the relatives of the deceased and the people as those involved in the crime are high-ranking police officials.

The bench rejected the Gujarat Government's argument that once the chargesheet had been filed the court have no power to transfer the investigation to another agency.

"In a case where the police had not acted fairly and in fact acted in a partisan manner to shield real culprits, it would be proper and interest of justice will be served if such investigation is handed over to the CBI authorities or an independent agency for proper investigation of the case.

"In this case, taking into consideration the grave allegations made against the high police officials of the State in respect of which some of them have already been in custody, we feel it proper and appropriate and in the interest of justice even at this stage, that is, when the chargesheet has already been submitted, the investigation shall be transferred to the CBI Authorities for proper and thorough investigation of the case," the bench said in its judgement.

"In the present circumstances and in view of the involvement of the police officials of the State in this crime, we cannot shut our eyes and direct the State Police authorities to continue with the investigation and the chargesheet and for a proper and fair investigation, we also feel that the CBI should be requested to take up the investigation and submit a report in this Court within six months," the bench said in its 50-page judgement.


First Published: Tuesday, January 12, 2010, 23:32

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