"We have been demanding a CBI inquiry for the past three years now. Rajneesh Rai investigation had enough evidence against the state government in Sohrabuddin encounter case." Arjun Modhvadia, Gujarat Congress spokesperson.
The decision of the Supreme Court to hand over the inquiry of Sohrabuddin encounter case to the CBI has come as a setback to the Gujarat government, which had been maintaining that the state police were conducting the inquiry in an impartial manner. It has also set the political chessboard, with Congress moving the first pawn against the state government.
"We have been demanding a CBI inquiry for the past three years now. Rajneesh Rai investigation had enough evidence against the state government.
But he was taken off the probe as the government feared it will be exposed. Now with the SC decision it is quite possible that Vanzara will undergo a narco test," said Arjun Modhvadia, state Congress spokesperson.
In November 2005, police personnel allegedly led by D. G. Vanzara had shot Sohrabuddin dead claiming that they were terrorists and had come to kill Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Later, his wife Kausar Bi and Tulsi Prajapati, the reported eye-witness of the fake encounter were also killed to destroy evidences.
The Gujarat Special Investigating Team (SIT) has been till nowconducting the probe into the encounter in which as many as 14 policemen including IPS officers DG Vanzara, an inspector-general and police superintendents, Rajkumar Pandayan and MN Dinesh of Rajasthan are believed to be involved.
"The Rai investigation of the case had a CD of call records of political leaders and cops during that period. But these had vanished mysteriously. Now with tables turned, it wouldn't be surprising to see a police officer handing over a copy of that CD to the CBI. There are officers who have kept silent since they felt that the reins of the investigation lay in the hands of the government," a police officer said on condition of anonymity.
The decision by the SC bench comprising Justices Tarun Chatterjee and Aftab Alam followed the demand of Rubabuddin; brother of Sohrabuddin for a CBI probe as he alleged that the investigation by the state police was not impartial.
The Congress is hopeful the inquiry will now expose the role of several politicians from Gujarat and Rajasthan in the case.
Planning and staging the encounter
The killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh in a staged encounter in 2005 came to light after his brother, Rubabuddin, approached the Supreme Court a year later. In a writ petition on January 21, 2006, Rubabuddin alleged that officers of Gujarat ATS wrongly termed Sohrabuddin a terrorist and shot him dead in Ahmedabad to win praise and reward from the state government.
He claimed that senior officers of Gujarat ATS colluded with Rajasthan police to not only kill Sohrabuddin, but also his wife, Kausarbi, and one more person, who is now believed to be Tulsi Prajapati. Following Rubabuddin's petition, the apex court asked the Gujarat DGP to initiate inquiry into the case.
The state police chief entrusted the probe to CID (crime). On April 24, 2007, DIG Rajnish Rai — who was heading the investigation at that time — arrested three IPS officers, the then DIG (ATS) D G Vanzara, SP (ATS) Rajkumar Pandyan and Rajasthan SP Dinesh Kumar M N.
The next day, the three officers were presented in a metropolitan court, which remanded them in police custody for 14 days. Later, 11 other police officers were arrested for staging the encounter of Sohrabuddin.
According to a BBC report, sub- inspector Daya Nayak has 82 encounters to his name, police inspector Praful Bhosle 70, assistant police inspector Ravindra Aangre 71, Sachin Vaze 63 and Vijay Salaskar 75 encounters.
Bhosle and Vaze have been dismissed in connection with the Khawaja Yunus custodial death case. Sharma was suspended in 2008 for his relations with the underworld. A departmental probe is on against Nayak for accumulating wealth more than income. Aangre has been under investigation for kidnapping a builder and threatening him.
They were DySP N KAmin, DySP M L Parmar, Inspector N H Dabhi, Inspector B R Chobey, Constable Ajay Parmar, Commando Shantram Sharma, Sub-inspector N V Chauhan and InspectorVARathod. Three Rajasthan cops — Abdul Rehman Sheikh, Himanshu Singh Rajawat and Shayam Singh Charan — were also among those apprehended.
On July 7, 2007, the CID (crime) filed a charge sheet in the case against the tainted cops. According to the charge sheet, the plan to murder Sohrabuddin began on November 20, 2005, when Dabhi, Parmar, Sharma left for Hyderabad. They had received information that Sohrabuddin was planning to travel to Sangli in a bus with his wife and Prajapati in a couple of days.
On November 21, 2005, Pandyan also reached the IT hub. He and other three cops, the charge sheet says, stayed at CRPF's mess there. Pandyan then booked a flight back to Ahmedabad, but didn't board the plane. Constable Parmar is believed to have travelled on his ticket. This was apparently done to show that Pandyan returned to the city in a day.
The next day, Sohrabuddin, Kausarbi and Prajapati boarded a Sangli-bound bus of M L Tours & Travel from Hyderabad. In the wee hours of November 23, Pandyan and other cops chased the bus and stopped it near Tandola, says the charge sheet. They then forced Sohrabuddin and the other two to alight from the bus.
All the three were brought to Ahmedabad on November 24. From the city, Sohrabuddin and Kausarbi were taken to a Disha farmhouse in a Maruti 800 near Adalaj, while Prajapati was whisked away to some other location. According to the charge sheet, Vanzara, Pandyan and other Gujarat ATS officers went into a huddle the next day to plan Sohrabuddin's death.
Early on November 26, Sohrabuddin was bundled into the Maruti 800 and taken to Vishala circle. Vanzara, Pandyan, Dinesh Kumar, Dabhi, Sheikh, Rajawat and Charan also reached the spot, the charge sheet states. Constable Parmar drove a motorcycle to Vishala circle. To make it appear that Sohrabuddin was escaping on the bike, Parmar allegedly drove the vehicle at a fast speed, and then jumped off.
Sohrabuddin, it has been mentioned in the charge sheet, was asked to stand beside the bike. He was then shot several times. A revolver was allegedly placed in his hands to make it appear that he was shot during exchange of fire between him and cops. Vanzara, who is believed to have led the entire operation, then apparently asked his team to take Sohrabuddin to Civil Hospital, where doctors declared him brought dead.
The same day, the tainted cops put the encounter on record. They claimed that Sohrabuddin was a terrorist and the Gujarat ATS killed him during a gun battle.
Fearing that Kausarbi and Prajapati would expose them, the aforesaid cops killed them, too, CID (crime) has said in its charge sheet. Kausarbi is believed to have breathed her last in lllol village. However, CID officers have not yet found her remains.
If seen in origin, the police encounters with the criminals are a means to establish peace. Ironically, they have often been misused. Recently, the Mumbai encounter specialist Pradeep Sharma has been arrested with an alleged fake encounter of gangster Ram Narayan alias Lakhan Bhaiya, an alleged member of Chhota Rajan gang, on November 11,2006. P. A. Sebastian, the Committee For Protection. Of Democratic Rights advocate said that police were violating the rights of citizens through fake encounters. Many other encounter specialists of Mumbai including Vijay Salaskar, Daya Nayak, Praful Bhosle and Ravindra Aangre are allegedly involved in fake encounters and some of them have even been suspended.
Every citizen has a right to live and their killing in fake encounters for gaining ranks, constitute a practice defaming the very democratic fabric of India. Serious thought should be given to this point. Those advocating the validity of encounters complain of laxity in law which allows the criminals to escape! *
What Leaders Say?
"I hope the inquiry will find out who the main conspirator was. We all want to know the truth." Former CM Suresh Mehta
"The state government has tried its level best to suppress the matter. But with CBI, there will be an impartial investigation. Political bigwigs will now lose their sleep over the Pandora's Box that will be opened. Tusli- encounter case will also be investigated." Former CM Shankersinh Vaghela
"The court has not given its final judgement in the encounter case. In today's order, the court has asked the CBI to investigate the case. We will take appropriate action after studying the order." Jaynarayan Vyas, Govt spokesperson
"The Supreme Court's decision to hand over the probe into the fake encounter to CBI is a victory for truth. The BJP-ruled government's attempt to win people's sympathy by branding petty criminals as terrorists and killing them has been exposed." Shaktisinh Gohil, leader of opposition in assembly
"This is a very significant decision as many details about the killing of Sohrabuddin and his wife, Kausarbi, are yet to emerge (in public)." Fr Cedric Prakash, a leading human rights activist
By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani