Sohrabuddin case: SC slams Guj Govt, orders CBI probe

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.

PTI



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

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