New Delhi: Journalist and television anchor Rajdeep Sardesai along with others submitted an unconditional apology in a Hyderabad court for airing a show on the alleged encounter killing case of Sohrabuddin Sheikh almost 12 years ago. The Hyderabad court delivered the verdict in November 2019, after Rajdeep and others apologied. In May 2007, Rajdeep Sardesai, then Editor-in-Chief of CNN-IBN, had run a programme on the Sohrabuddin case titled '30 Minutes - Sohrabuddin, The Inside Story’.
The news channel had claimed that IPS officer Rajiv Trivedi, who was then part of the Hyderabad Special Investigation Team probing the Sohrabuddin case, had provided cars with fake number plates to transport Sohrabuddin and his wife Kausar Bi to Ahmedabad, where they were killed in an encounter.
The news channel had reported that “Police sources say Vanjara and Pandian nabbed Sohrabuddin and Kausar Bi in Bidar with the help from SP Rajiv Trivedi of the Hyderabad Special Investigation Unit…Rajiv Trivedi provided cars with fake number plates in which Sohrabuddin was brought to Ahmadabad and then killed in a fake encounter.”
Subsequently, a complaint was filed against Sardesai and ten other reporters of the news channel before a court in Hyderabad, alleging that the report had tarnished the reputation of Rajiv Trivedi, and it was false, fabricated, and defamatory.
According to reports, the respondents had sought a direction from the Hyderabad High Court to quash the case against them, but the plea was dismissed in April 2011. The Supreme Court had also dismissed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed against this order in May 2015.
Meanwhile, a plea to transfer the trial in the case to Noida was also dismissed.
Rajdeep Sardesai later filed an affidavit submitting his unconditional apology to IPS officer Rajiv Trivedi on November 27, 2019, stating “…I realise that there is nothing to substantiate the allegation that Vanzara and Pandian nabbed Sohrabuddin and Kauserbi in Bidar with the help from SP Rajiv Trivedi of Hyderabad, Special Investigation Unit, and hence it was a false news telecast about Shri Rajiv Trivedi, IPS. I further submit that I also realise that there is nothing to substantiate the allegation that Rajiv Trivedi provided cars with fake number plates in which Sohrabuddin was brought to Ahmedabad and then killed in a fake encounter which news telecast by us about Shri Rajiv Trivedi, IPS was also false.”
After taking Rajdeep Sardesai's apology on record, Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge, Hyderabad D Hemanth Kumar, passed the order of acquittal on the very same day.
The order said, “A1, A2, A5, A10 to A17 filed affidavits by tendering an unconditional apology to the complainant and he accepted the same. The same is recorded. Crl.MP.No. 1782/2019 U/sec. 320(1) of Cr.P.C heard and allowed. Hence, A.1 A.2 A.5 and A10 to A11 are found not guilty for the offence U/sec. 500 of IPC and they are acquitted for the same U/sec. 320(8) of Cr.P.C. The bail bonds if any, shall stand cancelled.”
Earlier in December 2018, a Special CBI Court had acquitted all the accused in the Sohrabuddin encounter case.
Judge SJ Sharma had observed that there was no substantial evidence to prove the charges of conspiracy and alleged fake encounter killings of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati and the murder of Sheikh’s wife Kausar Bi.
Notably, an appeal against this verdict is pending before the Bombay High Court.