The Supreme Court today rejected the CBI’s plea seeking to cancel the bail given to former Gujarat home minister Amit Shah and permitted him to enter Gujarat ahead of the polls in the state, but has transferred the Sohrabuddin Shaikh fake encounter case in which he is accused, from Gujarat to Mumbai.
The Supreme Court has rejected the appeal made by the CBI seeking to cancel the bail given to Shah by the Gujarat High Court and has said the former minister can now travel to Gujarat. The court’s verdict is significant for the BJP, since Shah was one of the party’s main poll campaign managers in the state and enjoys the trust of Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
While granting him bail, Shah had been debarred the high court from entering the state in order to prevent him from influencing witnesses. Shah, a senior leader in Gujarat and a close aide to the chief minister, has been working from Delhi since being granted bail.
“The Supreme Court has allowed the High court order to continue,” Shah’s legal counsel told reporters outside the court.
However, in order to allow an impartial hearing in the fake encounter case, the court has transferred the hearing of the case to Mumbai from Gujarat.
“We have firm faith that our leader is innoncent. We are sure the final verdict of the court will only establish his innocence,” BJP spokesperson Prakash Jawadekar told reporters after the verdict.
He also expressed happiness over the fact that Shah would be able to participate in the party’s campaign for the state assembly polls later this year.
During an earlier hearing, senior advocate Ram Jethmalani had told the court that Shah was ready to accept any condition to continue on bail and is willing to give even an undertaking that he would not in any way, influence the trial.
The CBI had sought cancellation of Shah’s bail saying he cannot be put on higher pedestal than other accused in the Sohrabuddin case, who have been denied bail.
The agency added it has filed a charge sheet in the case of Tulsiram Prajapati fake encounter, in which Shah and erstwhile top police officials have been charge-sheeted.
The CBI said Prajapati was a witness in the Sohrabuddin case and his killing was part of a larger conspiracy in which Shah, as the then head of the state administration, was involved.
The apex court on 28 August had said it would consider allowing Shah to enter the state in view of the upcoming assembly polls but would like the trial of the case to be shifted to Maharashtra.
It had also asked the CBI to take a decision within couple of days on its probe relating to the killing of Tulsiram Prajapati, who was one of the key witness in the killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh.
Sohrabuddin and his wife Kauser Bi were allegedly abducted by the Gujarat’s Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) from Hyderabad and killed in a fake encounter near Gandhinagar in November 2005.
Prajapati, said to be a Sohrabuddin’s accomplice, was also subsequently eliminated allegedly by ATS because he was an eye witness to the couple’s killings, the CBI had said.
Shah, a close aide of Chief Minister Narendra Modi, was arrested by the CBI on July 25, 2010 and had spent over three months in Sabarmati Jail in Ahmedabad.
Shah had to quit the Modi government in July last year after having been slapped with kidnapping and murder charges in the fake encounter killing.
He has been accused by the agency of being the “kingpin” of the conspiracy in the fake encounter killing of Sheikh.
The agency had earlier urged the apex court to transfer the trial of the fake encounter killing case outside Gujarat arguing that witnesses are being intimidated and the trial cannot be held in a free and fair manner.