MUMBAI -- The special CBI court in Mumbai on Tuesday discharged former Gujarat ATS chief D G Vanzara, and Rajasthan cadre IPS officer Dinesh MN in the alleged fake encounter case of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati, holding there was no prima facie evidence to link them to the killings.
It called the evidence put forth by prosecution witnesses "hearsay" in nature, while acquitting the two in the high- profile case in which the now BJP president Amit Shah was acquitted in 2014.
"There is no prima-facie evidence against Vanzara to connect him to the abduction and killing of Sorabuddin, his wife Kausar Bi and Tulsi Prajapati, let alone to show him as one of the main conspirators," the court said.
"The CBI mostly relied on the statements of witnesses which are hearsay in nature. Even the statements of the co-accused do not in any way directly implicate the applicant (Vanzara)," said judge Sunilkumar J Sharma.
The court said the prosecution did not say anything about his presence at the crime spots, and a mere conversation between Vanzara on one side and Gujarat IPS officer Vipul Agarwal and inspector Ashish Pandya on the other was not sufficient to establish the former IPS officer's role in the killing of Prajapati, it said.
"There is absolutely no iota of material as when, where and who killed Kausar Bi. There is also no material collected from the spot like sand, ash etc to say that her body was burnt," the court said, referring to the CBI's claim that her body was burnt after killing.
"It is seen from the entire record...that there is no sufficient evidence to indicate that there was a meeting of minds between accused (Vanzara) and the other accused to abduct and kill (Sheikh, Kausar Bi and Prajapati)," the court held.
In the absence of evidence of their involvement in any manner in the abduction followed by the killing, I am of the view that role attributed against the accused as reflected does definitely come within the sphere of discharge of their official duty, the court said.
Dinesh MN was granted bail in May 2014. He was promoted by the Rajasthan government to the post of Deputy Inspector General and then Inspector General with effect from May 9 the same year. He had served seven years in jail in connection with the alleged fake encounter killings.
The court has so far has discharged Amit Shah, Rajasthan Home Minister Gulabchand Kataria, businessman Vimal Patni, former Gujarat police chief P C Pande and Additional Director General of Police Geeta Johri in the case.
Gujarat police officers Abhay Chudasama, N K Amin, Yashpal Chudasama and Ajay Patel (both office-bearers at Ahmedabad District Co-Operative Bank), Gujarat IPS officer Rajkumar Pandiyan and Andhra Pradesh-cadre IPS officer N Balasubramanyam have also been discharged.
While discharging Shah on December 30, 2014, the court had held that the entire record, considered in totality, did not make out any case against the BJP leader, and there was substance in the defence's contention that Shah was made an accused for political reasons.
According to the CBI, Sohrabuddin Sheikh, a gangster with alleged links to Pakistani terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba, and his wife Kausar Bi, were abducted by the Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad from Hyderabad when the couple was on their way to Sangli in Maharashtra.
Sheikh was killed in an alleged fake encounter near Gandhinagar in November 2005, after which his wife disappeared. According to the CBI, she too was killed.
Prajapati, Sheikh's aide and an eyewitness to the alleged encounter, was later killed by police at Chapri village in Gujarat's Banaskantha district in December 2006, the Central agency claimed.
According to the CBI's charge sheet, Sohrabuddin had demanded Rs 24 crore from Vimal Patni, a marble trader, as "protection money", and was therefore eliminated in a fake encounter.
Vanzara was arrested on April 24, 2007 by the Gujarat CID in Sohrabuddin encounter case, which was later handed over to the CBI. He was heading the Gujarat ATS when the alleged fake encounters took place.
The Sohrabuddin case was transferred to Mumbai in September 2012 after the CBI said a fair trial was not possible in Gujarat. In 2013, the Supreme Court clubbed Sheikh and Prajapati encounter cases.
Reacting to the court's order, Vanzara told , "I have been saying since the beginning that all these encounters were genuine....it is now established that I was framed in false cases. This judgement vindicated my stand about encounters.
"Though justice is delayed, it is not denied," said Vanzara, who spent nearly eight years behind bars before being released on bail in 2015. "I am sure I would get similar justice in Ishrat (Ishrat Jehan encounter) case," he said.
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