PERILS OF PROSECUTION

The recent ruling by a CBI court in the infamous Sohrabuddin encounter case has put a lid to the lengthy ordeal that had reached its dead end, so to speak.

BY DANFES

The last word has been said & that summarily closes all drawing board discussions on the chilling Sohrabuddin encounter case after twelve long years. His wasn’t the lone case. There was his associate Tulsiram Prajapati and the one involving rape cum-murder of Kausar Bi. The observation of Special CBI Court that “the documentary and circumstantial evidence was not substantial” & that “Witnesses and proofs the prosecution put forward were not satisfactory to suggest or establish the alleged conspiracy and murder in the 2005 encounter killing,” speaks volumes about the inadequate sewing up of the evidence & the loose criminal justice apparatus of our country. All 22 accused in this politically sensitive case were acquitted in this Friday 21st December judgement.

And when learned judge regretted the court’s ability to convict anyone, did he mean to say in some way that he wasn’t entirely convinced about how the prosecution had pursued the matter or was it an expression of pure remorse for the bereaved family. Hope it was the latter, or else like any other high profile case with political ramifications, this could well stir a hornet’s nest & leave the vulnerable thinking more so, in the highly polarised polity of this country.

But why regret in the first place? Frankly speaking, perhaps somewhere deep down in the righteous crevices of our conscience laid buried another story that was not in consonance with the ultimate outcome? Does it then amplify & elevate the hope & faith in our criminal jurisprudence or does it simply stab us numb with periodic adjudications bordering on orchestrated machinations of few who have their masters to please & take orders from whilst seen as discharging their legitimate duties. The judge curiously says that “The evidence before me could not establish the roles of any accused persons and no material evidence to prove any of the charges against the accused,”

Somebody has won & somebody lost. Maybe the loss outweighs the freedom won by many or maybe not. But the loss if any to the very fabric & essence of our criminal justice process & the shoddy operating procedures might result  in something catastrophic tomorrow & all of us would be criminally negligent of our duties towards our constitution & to the duties towards ensuring fair justice & bringing the guilty to book. Even now we don’t know who killed the trio? Somebody must have. Who, How & when? Can this also be established by our Justice system?

Briefly rewinding back to the inception of this case & according to the prosecution, the Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) had gunned down Sohrabuddin on November 26, 2005, in an alleged staged killing.
It also said that Prajapati was also killed in a similar fashion on December 28, 2006, while Kausar Bi, who had witnessed the abduction of her husband (Sohrabuddin) was later raped and murdered.
However the Special Judge debunked the story of Prajapati’s abduction. As per the third charge sheet, the CBI claimed he was the third person travelling with Sohrabuddin and Kausar Bi on the Hyderabad-Sangli bus. “However, the material evidences and witnesses establish he was not on the bus and was arrested from Bhilwara (Rajasthan) on Nov. 26, 2005,” Special Judge Sharma said.

You may recall the furore these killings had evoked among civil society & more so in the adversaries of BJP who had cast aspersions on the integrity of those involved & named in this case. There were rumblings in the political class too with allegations running thick & wild of the purported involvement of several top political bigwigs, IPS officers and other officials. The prosecution contended that Sohrabuddin had connections with the Lashkar-e-Taiba and other terror groups and was conspiring to assassinate “an important political leader” presumably the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. He happens to be the present Prime Minister of our country.

From the prosecution point of view, a total of 37 accused were named in the case of whom 16, mostly politicians and IPS officers were subsequently discharged by the Special CBI Court in Mumbai and others by

the Bombay High Court. Among those discharged initially (2014) were BJP President Amit Shah, who was the Gujarat Home Minister at the time of this incident, the then Rajasthan Home Minister G.C. Kataria, high-profile ATS chief and DIG D.G. Vanzara, Superintendents of Police M.N. Dinesh and R.K. Pandian, among others.

Interestingly, after appeals from various quarters, the politically-sensitive trial was shifted from Gujarat to Mumbai by the Supreme Court in September 2012. When the Special CBI Court recorded the statements of the remaining 22 accused during the trial, all claimed their “innocence” and said they were nabbed owing to rivalry among the Gujarat top police brass and related factors stemming from the then political situation prevalent in that state.

From the witness’s point of view, some 210 witnesses were examined during the trial; of which 92 turned hostile, seriously undermining the CBI case. This had prompted the CBI counsel B.P. Raju to admit various ‘lacunae’ into the probe of the killing of Sohrabuddin & Prajapati. CBI though, it must be said came into the picture only in 2010.

With the last bugle sounded, shall we get to hear no more of this highly sensitive case? Or shall it continue to rankle our conscience for eternity with no clear answers to who, why & how were Sohrabuddin, Prajapati & Kausar Bi  killed? Till then may the justice prevail, regardless? Amen!