The CBI probed the alleged fake encounter killings of Sohrabuddin Shaikh, his wife Kausar Bi and his aide Tulsi Prajapati with a 'pre-conceived and premeditated' theory to implicate political leaders, a special CBI court has said. Special CBI Judge SJ Sharma made the remarks in a 350-pages judgment on December 21, while acquitting all the 22 accused in the case. The court acquitted the accused due to insufficient evidence and expressed sorrow over the loss of "three lives."
While the judgment copy was unavailable Friday, media was given access to portions of the judgment. In his order, Judge Sharma said his predecessor (Judge MB Gosavi) while passing an order of discharge in the application of accused number 16 (BJP president Amit Shah) recorded that the investigation was "politically motivated".
"Having given my dispassionate consideration to the entire material placed before me and having examined each of the witnesses and the evidence closely, I have no hesitation in recording that a premier investigating agency like CBI had before it a premeditated theory and a script intended to implicate political leaders," the judgment said.
The order said the CBI, during its probe into the case, was doing something other than arriving at the truth of the offences in question.
"It clearly appears that the CBI was more concerned in establishing a particular pre-conceived and premeditated theory rather than finding out the truth," the judgment said.
It said the CBI did what was required to reach that 'goal' instead of conducting a probe in accordance with law. "The entire investigation was thus targeted to act upon a script to achieve the said goal and in the process of its zeal to implicate political leaders, CBI created evidence and placed witness statements in the chargesheet," the judgment said.
Such statements could not withstand the judicial scrutiny of the court and the witnesses deposed fearlessly before this court clearly indicating that their statements were wrongly recorded by CBI to justify its script to implicate political leaders, the court said.
The court noted that there was negligence on part of the CBI towards material evidence which clearly indicated that the agency "hurriedly" completed the investigation.
"...the CBI thus implicated police personnel who had no knowledge of any conspiracy... rather they appeared innocent," the court said.
The judge said he is not oblivious to the agony and frustration caused to the families of the deceased persons and to the society in general when a crime of such a serious nature goes unpunished. "...but then the law does not permit the court to punish the accused on the basis of a moral conviction or on suspicion alone. The burden of truth in a criminal trial never shifts. The burden is always on the prosecution to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt," the court said.
The court noted that there is 'regret' that three persons were killed, which was going unpunished. It added that it has no option but to conclude that the accused are not guilty.
The order said there was no evidence to prove CBI's theory that the three deceased were abducted by a police team. "The CBI has also failed to establish presence of the accused police personnel at the spot of the alleged incident," the order said, adding that no witness was examined to show that the policemen were issued service weapons.
Of the 22 accused, 21 were junior police officers from Gujarat and Rajasthan, who the CBI said were part of teams which abducted and killed the three in staged encounters. The court said there was nothing to show if service weapons of the accused policemen were used in the killings.
The three victims who were returning to Sangli in Maharashtra from Hyderabad in a bus were taken into custody by a police team on the night of November 22-23, 2005. The couple were taken in one vehicle and Prajapati in another. CBI said Shaikh was killed on November 26, 2005, allegedly by a joint team comprising Gujarat and Rajasthan police, and Kausar Bi three days later. Prajapati, who was lodged in an Udaipur central jail, was killed in an encounter on the Gujarat-Rajasthan border on December 27, 2006.
The CBI had charged 38 persons, including Shah, who was then Gujarat home minister, Gulabchand Kataria, the then Rajasthan home minister, and senior IPS officers like DG Vanzara and P C Pande. The prosecution examined 210 witnesses, of which 92 turned hostile.
Before the December 21 verdict, 16 people, including Shah, Kataria, Vanzara and Pande were discharged by the CBI court due to lack of evidence.
Amit Shah was arrested in the case in July 2010, but released on bail by Gujarat High Court in October 2010. He was discharged by CBI court in December 2014.
The December 21 verdict was Judge Sharma's last judgment of his career as he is set to retire on December 31.