Sohrabuddin case: SC denies bail to Gujarat cop

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday asked Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Rajkumar Pandian of Gujarat to approach the Central Bureau of Investigation or the high court for bail in the murder case of Sohrabuddin Sheikh.

A bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan told the officer, now in judicial custody, to present his bail plea before the CBI, which is probing the case.

"The petitioner is at liberty to approach the CBI court or the High Court with the bail application. While considering the bail plea, the competent court would not be influenced by its earlier orders rejecting his bail," it said.

Fifteen policemen have been arrested for the November 2005 killing of Sohrabuddin, who police claimed was killed in a shootout near Ahmedabad Nov 28, 2005. His wife Kauserbi has been missing since then.

The policemen's arrests followed a petition filed by Rubabuddin Sheikh, a brother of Sohrabuddin, in the Supreme Court.

The court turned down the contention of Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising and senior advocate Dushyant Dave that Pandiyan's petition was not maintainable and he should not be given any liberty to approach the trial court or the High Court for bail.

"He is an undertrial prisoner. He is entitled to bail. Law of the country permits him for the bail. This court has the power to release any accused on bail," the CJI said when the Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising and senior advocate Dushyant Dave opposed the Bench's idea of asking Pandiyan to approach the competent court for bail.

Dave, while opposing the submission of Jethmalani, charged the arrested IPS officer has murdered three innocent persons.

Dave was appearing for Soharabuddin's brother Rubabuddin Sheikh on whose petition the case was transferred to CBI from Gujarat Police.

However, Jethamalani said Pandiyan has allegedly killed a person who was a "greatest threat" to the country and he is entitled to bail.

"I (Pandiyan) have killed one of the most notorious criminals of the country, for which the nation should be grateful.. he (Soharabuddin) may have died in a fake encounter and the law will take its course. But I am entitled to be heard for my bail plea," he submitted before the Bench also comprising Justices Deepak Verma and B S Chauhan.

The senior advocate started his arguments by asking the apex court to hear bail plea of Pandiyan saying it was a case of great importance and has political overtones besides legal and constitutional issues.

He said he could not go to the trial courts as the apex court has rejected his bail plea twice with certain observations.

Pandiyan has contended that the Supreme Court had dismissed his bail petitions twice without hearing him. He alleged he was in illegal custody for the last three years as the orders against him and other accused were passed without hearing them.

Jethmalani said the need for moving the apex court arose as the accused was not getting bail from any other court due to the earlier orders.

Pandiyan's petition said he is in jail since April 24, 2007, in connection with the killing of Sohrabuddin, his wife Kausar Bi and another person even after the chargesheet in the case has been filed.

According to the petition, even though the Gujarat police had filed the chargesheet in 2007, the proceedings were stayed and the case was transferred to CBI early this year.

Pandiyan submitted the "belated" transfer of the case to CBI by the apex court had caused prejudice to him, thus affecting his right to life and liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Suspended DIG D G Vanzara, Rajasthan cadre IPS officer M N Dinesh, along with Pandiyan, are the main accused in the killing of alleged gangster Sohrabuddin Sheikh.

Another Gujarat cadre police officer N K Amin is the fourth accused in the case.

Recently, CBI arrested another IPS officer from the state Abhay Chudasama in connection with the case.