The 2006 killing of Tulsiram Prajapati in Gujarat made headlines once more on Wednesday after the chief investigation officer (CIO) of the case told a Mumbai CBI court that BJP chief Amit Shah and three IPS officers were the main conspirators in the alleged fake encounter.
CIO Sandeep Tamgadge, however, conceded that his claim was not supported by any documentary evidence in the charge sheet filed by him. "From the investigation done by us, we found that the principal conspirators were Amit Shah, DG Vanzara (former Deputy Inspector General of Gujarat Police), Rajkumar Pandian (SP, Intelligence Bureau) and MN Dinesh (IPS officer, Rajasthan Police)," Tamgade said.
As per a report from The Indian Express, Tamgadge, who investigated and supervised the case from April 2012, also said that there was a “politician-criminal” nexus, and named Shah and Rajasthan home minister Gulab Chand Kataria as the alleged “politicians” who had “used criminals” — Sheikh, Tulsiram and another Azam Khan — to fire at the office of Popular Builders in 2004.
Tamgadge said that he had also interrogated Vimal Patni, a marble trader from Rajasthan. "There was some incriminating material against the trio. But those statements were not filed in the charge sheet," he said.
Tamgadge's statements come a few weeks after the Bombay High Court upheld the discharge of DG Vanzara and four other police officers in the case.
What happened to Tulsiram Prajapati and Sohrabuddin Sheikh?
Sheikh, a criminal who allegedly had links with the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), was shot dead on 26 November, 2005, while he was in custody of Gujarat Police in an alleged fake encounter. According to the CBI, Sheikh and his wife Kausar Bi were abducted by Gujarat's Anti-Terrorism Squad when they were on way from Hyderabad to Sangli in Maharashtra and killed in an alleged staged encounter near Gandhinagar in November 2005.
Vanzara, the former ATS Deputy Inspector General, said that Sheikh was suspected to be in the city to assassinate a top political figure, presumed to be the then chief minister Narendra Modi, on behalf of the LeT and the ISI.
Prajapati, who was an eyewitness to the encounter, was killed by Rajasthan Police at Chapri in Gujarat's Banaskantha district in December 2006.
The Supreme Court had ordered the Gujarat Police to investigate the matter after Sheikh's brother Rababuddin wrote to the Chief Justice of India a few weeks after the encounter, saying he was unconvinced about the Gujarat Police's version of how his brother was killed. He had said he was also concerned about the "disappearance" of his sister-in-law, The Quint reported.
The top court then handed over the investigation to the CBI, which said that “monetary and political gains” were the motive behind the killings, The Wire reported.
The investigation agency charged 37 people as accused in the case, including Shah, who was Minister of State for Home of Gujarat when the encounters took place. Of the persons charged for the alleged fake encounters, 15 have been discharged, including 14 police officials.
The case is currently being heard at the Bombay High Court.
How Amit Shah was linked to the case
After initially being investigated by the Gujarat police, the case was handed over to the CBI by the Supreme Court.
The CBI had alleged that Shah was the "kingpin" of the conspiracy which led to the extrajudicial killings of Sheikh and his wife, and that he had conspired with police officials to abduct them. Call records, that were accessed by Tehelka, showed that the former minister was in constant touch with the police officials involved in the murders of Sheikh, his wife and Prajapati.
Shah was also accused by the CBI of running an extortion racket with police officials using gangsters like Sheikh.
Following this, Shah was arrested on 25 July, 2010 and spent over three months in Sabarmati Jail in Ahmedabad in connection with the case. He was later granted bail by the Supreme Court, but was asked to stay out of Gujarat in order to prevent influencing the witnesses.
Kataria, Pandian, Dinesh and Vanzara were also discharged by the trial court between 2014 and 2017.
Media shut out and let back in
On 29 November, 2017, as the CBI began its examination of eyewitnesses, a defence advocate moved an application seeking to ban the media from reporting the case. The court passed an order the same day, restraining the media from reporting the case "till further orders".
However, on 24 January, 2018 the Bombay High Court quashed and set aside the trial court's order prohibiting journalists from reporting on or publishing the proceedings of the trial. Justice Revati Mohite-Dere minced no words in holding that the special CBI court overreached its powers in issuing the order.
"The rights of the press are intrinsic with the constitutional right that guarantees freedom of expression. In reporting from an open trial, the press not only makes use of its own right, but serves the larger purpose of making such information available to the general public," she said.
Such an order could be issued only in rare cases and for a limited period of time, Mohite-Dere said, adding that mere apprehension of sensationalism by the accused was not a sufficient ground for such a gag order.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Nov 22, 2018 11:16:10 IST