SC orders Rs 10 lakh to Gujarat encounter victim's family

SC orders Rs 10 lakh to Gujarat encounter victim`s family New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed Gujarat to pay an "interim ex gratia" of Rs 10 lakh to the family of slain alleged gangster Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife, even as the state government opposed any move to entrust investigations of the killings to the Special Investigation Team (SIT).

A bench of Justices Tarun Chatterjee and Aftab Alam while directing the state to deposit the amount in the court within a week, said it would hear on September 2 the question as to whether the killings should be entrusted to the SIT probing the post-Godhra 2002 communal riots.

Senior counsel Dushayant Dave appearing for Rubabuddin, brother of Sohrabuddin, said the family was willing to accept the amount.

At one stage Justice Aftab Alam wanted to know whether the state was willing to enhance the "ex gratia" from Rs 10 lakh.

"I don't think so. Your lordships may pass any order," senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi appearing for the state said.

It was at this stage that Justice Chatterjee jokingly remarked that he was expecting the ex-gratia to be only in "thousands."

When Justice Alam repeated his question, Rohtagi stuck to his stand that the state was not willing to enhance the amount any further and if the court felt otherwise, it was free to pass any order.

To a query from the Bench, Rohtagi also said the state was not agreeable to the suggestion for entrusting the probe into the killing of the couple to the SIT.

"We don't accept it. We have to be heard," the counsel said in response to a poser from the Apex Court as to whether the state was willing to transfer the case to the SIT headed by former CBI director R K Raghavan.

The Gujarat police had initially claimed Sohrabuddin was a gangster involved in extortion and had nearly 54 cases registered against him in different states.

It was claimed that he was killed in an encounter with the Anti-Terrorists Squad (ATS) of Gujarat police and Rajasthan police.

After the killing, Sohrabuddin's younger brother Rubabuddin wrote a letter to the Chief Justice of India alleging the killings were stage managed. The Apex Court treated the letter as a PIL and ordered a probe.

Subsequent investigations by the Gujarat police established the fake encounter theory resulting in half-a-dozen officers being arrested and suspended. Apart from Sohrabuddin's killing it also came to light that the deceased's wife Kauser Bi was also picked up along with him and killed. The whereabouts of Kauser Bi's body is still a mystery.

Senior Gujarat police officers -- D G Vanzara (DIG), Raj Kumar Pandiyan (SP) and Dinesh M N (Rajasthan Cadre IPS officer) are among the main accused in the case and are presently in jail.

Bureau Report