All 22 accused in Sohrabuddin Shaikh case acquitted

All 22 accused in Sohrabuddin Shaikh case acquitted

A designated CBI court on Friday acquitted all the 22 accused in the alleged twin fake encounters involving gangsters Sohrabuddin Shaikh and Tulsiram Prajapati and the rape and murder of Kausar Bi between 2005 and 2006.

 “The evidence adduced was not satisfactory,” additional sessions Judge S J Sharma, who presides over a special CBI court, said while acquitting the accused.  He said the CBI, the prosecuting agency worked hard. However, it was difficult as witnesses turned hostile.

 “The prosecution has failed to put forth any documentary and substantive evidence to suggest or establish the alleged conspiracy and the chain of events,” he said.

 Judge Sharma, however, extended sympathies to the families of Sohrabuddin Shaikh and Tulsiram Prajapati. “I am sorry... three lives were lost... but the (judicial) system and law demand that we go by evidence,” he said.  

“A mother has lost her son, their daughter-in-law... it is sad,” he said, referring to the encounter of Sohrabuddin and the killing of his wife Kausar Bi. “I feel sorry for Narmada Bai,” he said about the family of Tulsiram.  

The 22 accused include 21 serving and retired policemen from Gujarat, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh, who were charge-sheeted for conspiracy, murder and other charges.

The court said that the main foundation of the prosecution were key eyewitnesses, who turned hostile. The CBI had listed 700 witnesses of whom 210 were examined. As many as 92 witnesses had turned hostile.

The twin encounters between November 2005 and December 2006 were carried out by the Anti-Terrorism Squad of the Gujarat police. Later, the state CID-Crime was asked to probe the encounters — and subsequently, the CBI was asked to “further investigate” the cases.

A total of 38 accused were booked, including the then Gujarat Minister of State for Home and now BJP president Amit Shah and then Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria. Of the 38, as many as 16 accused, including Shah, Kataria and several IPS officers, were discharged between 2014 and 2017.

According to the ATS version, Sohrabuddin, a gangster with links to Lashkar-e-Toiba and Pakistan’s spy agency ISI, had designs to assassinate an “important political leader”, presumably the then Gujarat chief minister and present prime minister Narendra Modi.