Gujarat govt says nine accused in Sohrabuddin case face death threat

A city magistrate on Friday rejected a Gujarat government plea seeking transfer of the nine accused in the Sohrabuddin Shaikh fake encounter case to a jail in the neighbouring state, as they faced danger to their lives from the banned Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).

The Gujarat government application also included an Intelligence Bureau report that the accused had a life threat from SIMI.

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate A A Khan, however, asked the superintendent of Arthur Road Central Jail to inform on existing prison security so that it could decide on shifting the accused elsewhere if needed.

The court asked the Arthur jail superintendent to be present before it on November 26 when he has been asked to give his report on security arrangements in his prison.

Seventeen of the 19 accused appeared before court on Friday and two of them did not appear, as they are undergoing treatment in a Gujarat hospital. All of them were remanded to judicial custody till December 7.

The accused in custody have been temporarily shifted to the Taloja jail, near Mumbai, according to lawyer Rizwan Merchant.

On the last occasion, eight accused, including former Gujarat minister Amit Shah had appeared before the court, while the CBI had sought fresh production warrants against the remaining 11 accused, including former IPS officers D G Vanjara, Rajkumar Pandian and Abhay Chudasama, who are lodged in Ahmedabad’s Sabarmati jail.

Sohrabuddin Shaikh, an alleged gangster, and his wife Kauser Bi, were allegedly abducted by Gujarat’s Anti-Terrorism Squad from Hyderabad and murdered in a fake encounter near Gandhinagar in November 2005. Tulsiram Prajapati, a witness, was also allegedly killed by the police in December 2006.

According to the CBI, Amit Shah, former minister of state for home in Narendra Modi government, was the “kingpin” of the conspiracy.

On September 27, the Supreme Court ordered transfer of the case to Maharashtra, after the CBI stated that witnesses were being intimidated, and that a free and fair trial in Gujarat was impossible.

“The state has received reliable information from the State Intelligence Bureau, Mumbai, and have received messages from Multi Agency Centre (MAC) that there is imminent threat and danger to the life and safety of the accused at Mumbai”, the application said.

“The Additional Chief Secretary, Gujarat, and DGP, Gujarat, have also intimated the Additional Chief Secretary Maharashtra and DGP, Maharashtra, about the imminent threat and danger to the life and safety of the accused at Mumbai, due to a possibility of attacks by SIMI activists on the accused,” the application said with annexed copies of correspondence between the authorities of Gujarat and Maharashtra inter-alia, raising security concerns for the accused.

In these letters, the Additional Chief Secretary of Gujarat raised security concerns and urged the Maharashtra government to make “foolproof” security arrangements for the accused. However, Maharashtra has not responded to the correspondences and also not confirmed providing any foolproof security measures so far, to ensure the safety of the accused, the application filed by Gujarat government alleged.

It also said that the accused could be produced in the Mumbai court through Sabarmati Jail’s video conferencing facilities and not physically, due to the threat, but if security measures were provided by Maharashtra, the accused may be produced before court in person.

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