A Special CBI court is set to pronounce on Friday, December 21, its judgement in the politically sensitive Sohrabuddin Anwar Shaikh and Tulsiram Prajapati twin extra judicial killings cases and the rape-cum-murder of Kausar Bi of Gujarat.
But, in a turn of events, a key witness, Azam Khan, has moved the court seeking re-examination. Another witness, Mahendra Zala, had made a similar plea on Tuesday. Both these pleas will be heard on Thursday.
In a fresh plea filed before the Special CBI Court on December 19, Khan, an associate of Sohrabuddin and Tulsiram, stated that he faced “unrelenting torture” for 20 days and hence was scared to name IPS officers and politicians during his deposition before the court last month.
He said that his testimony was “incomplete” and had also sought protection for his wife Rizwana and himself under the new witness protection scheme.
Khan, in his application, stated that Abdul Rehman, a Rajasthan police officer who had allegedly fired at Sohrabuddin, had threatened him on the morning of the deposition and commanded that he give a favourable statement. Khan alleged that he was held forcefully at a hotel in Mumbai and then driven to the deposition building in a car, in which Rehman was already sitting.
According to an Indian Express report, Khan had named only one retired IPS officer because he was scared to name other IPS officers after he was threatened by accused Abdul Rehman. The re-examination plea was filed through advocates Sarim Naved and Akhilesh Mogra
According to the plea, Khan says that he was told that all of this was being done at the behest of another police officer Abhay Chudasama (accused and discharged in 2015). He was informed that they wanted all of this done September 27, when they wanted BJP President Amit Shah to get bail, said the report.
Shah, who was also named as an accused in the extra-judicial killing cases, was granted bail in October 2010 and was discharged in 2014.
In his plea, Khan stated that a lot of material witnesses have not been examined and no explanations were given either. There were around 500 witnesses listed in the chargesheet, but only 210 were examined and of these 92 had turned hostile. Khan named three witnesses, including IPS officer Rajnish Rai, who were not examined. He alleged that his statement recorded under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code was not exhibited as evidence by the prosecutor.
The second witness, Zala, a petrol pump owner, had also made similar allegations in his re-examination plea and he questioned the prosecution’s decision to not furnish his statement recorded under CrPC 164 before the court.
A witness is required by law to depose in front of a magistrate under Section 164 of the CrPC to ensure they do not turn hostile later or are not influenced by the accused. The CBI has not furnished either Khan’s and Zala’s statement (recorded under section 164 of CrPC) before the special CBI court.
On November 3, 2005, Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kausar Bi were travelling from Hyderabad to Ahmedabad. At 1.30 am the Gujarat ATS squad stopped the bus at Sangli, Maharashtra, and escorted them off the bus.
Three days later, Sohrabuddin was shot dead in what was called an encounter by the then Gujarat DIG DG Vanzara.
A few weeks after the encounter, his brother Rababuddin wrote to the then Chief Justice of India that he was not convinced about how his brother died and was concerned about his sister-in-law Kausar Bi, who had also gone missing around the same time. After the Supreme Court got the letter, it ordered the Gujarat Police to conduct an investigation into Sohrabuddin’s killing and Kausar Bi’s disappearance.
It was initially reported that Kausar Bi had disappeared and later in 2007 the Gujarat government revealed to the Supreme Court that she was held in custody in two different farm houses and then strangled to death and cremated on November 28, 2005. She was also allegedly raped by a sub-inspector.