Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter: CBI seeks dismissal of PIL in Bombay High Court challenging Amit Shah's discharge
In the PIL, the petitioners questioned why the CBI had only challenged Amit Shah's discharge in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case and not that of the police officers named in the case.
Mumbai: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Tuesday urged the Bombay High Court to dismiss a public interest litigation (PIL) that questions the agency's decision to not challenge the discharge granted to BJP chief Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case. Appearing for the CBI, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh argued that the PIL, filed by the Bombay Lawyers' Association, was merely a publicity stunt.
Singh argued that since Shah was granted a discharge by a special CBI court in Mumbai in December 2014, several pleas challenging it were filed in the high court and were subsequently withdrawn or dismissed. The Supreme Court, too, had upheld the dismissal of several such pleas challenging the discharge granted to Shah and therefore, there was no need for the Bombay High Court to entertain the PIL, Singh argued.
In the PIL filed in January, the association claimed that the CBI's decision to challenge the discharge of some police officers and not the one granted to Shah was "discriminatory". "Why should a central agency pick and choose whose discharge to challenge? They must be directed to explain the reason why they (the CBI) chose not to challenge in Shah's case, and they must be directed to file a plea to challenge the special court's decision granting discharge to Shah," the petitioner's lawyer Ahmad Abdi said.
Singh, however, pointed out that Abdi's plea was the fourth round of litigation challenging Shah's discharge and was "devoid of any merit". He informed a bench of justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre that Shah's discharge was first challenged in the Bombay High Court through a revision application filed by Sheikh's brother Rubabuddin.
However, Rubabuddin withdrew his challenge on 5 October, 2015. A single bench of the Bombay High Court haf allowed him to do so on 23 November, 2015, after it was satisfied that he was doing so voluntarily. "The high court judgment shows that it gave Rubabuddin enough time to reflect on his decision and change it if necessary. Before allowing the withdrawal, the court heard him in the chamber to ascertain whether it was indeed voluntary," Singh said.
Soon after, a man named Rajesh M Kamble filed a revision application against the discharge granted to Shah. Kamble claimed that he was doing so in his capacity of being "an alert citizen". The Bombay High Court, however, dismissed his plea on 21 October, 2015, questioning his locus standi (his right, or the capacity in which he could have filed the plea) in the case.
Then, social activist Harsh Mander filed a writ petition in the Bombay High Court challenging the discharge and questioning Rubabuddin's withdrawal. The plea was dismissed subsequently by the high court, and the dismissal was upheld by the Supreme Court in August 2017.
"In all these judgments of dismissal, the high court has recorded several reasons why such pleas should not be allowed. Besides, the Supreme Court has laid down specific grounds in its previous orders clarifying what qualifies as a PIL," Singh argued. "The present case, however, is not a PIL, but a publicity interest litigation and should be dismissed," Singh told the court.
The bench has now directed the CBI to file a compilation of all the judgments cited above by 3 October.
At the end of the day's hearing in the case, the bench was also informed that a new PIL has been filed by a local journalist in the case, and that it has the same prayers as that in Abdi's plea. The high court has tagged the two matters and will hear them together on 3 October, the next date of hearing.
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