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The Bombay High Court on Monday (Sep 10) upheld the acquittal by a trial court to ex-DGP of Gujarat DG Vanzara and four others in the case of encounter of suspected gangster Sohrabuddin Shaikh, his wife Kausurbi and an aide Tulsiram Prajapati.

A single bench of Justice AM Badar  was hearing a clutch of petitions filed by Sohrabuddin’s brother
challenging a lower court order that had discharged DG Vanzara, the then DIG and Gujarat ATS Chief, Gujarat IPS officer Rajkumar Pandian, Gujarat police officer N K Amin, Rajasthan cadre IPS officer Dinesh MN and Rajasthan police constable Dalpat Singh Rathod.

The court dismissed all petitions challenging the discharge of policemen from the two states and allowed Gujarat IPS officer Vipul Aggarwal to be discharged from the case.

On November 23, 2005, Sohrabuddin Seikh, a local gangster, was travelling on a Hyderabad-Sangli bus along with his wife Kausar Bi and his trusted aide Prajapati when they were allegedly abducted by a team of policemen attached to Gujarat’s Anti-Terrorism Squad and members of the Special Task Force from Rajasthan. The couple was allegedly detained at a private farm house near Gandhinagar and two days later, Sheikh was killed allegedly in a fake encounter. Kausarbi and Tulsiram too were later killed. Later on, the case was transferred to Mumbai on the orders of the Supreme Court.

The petitioner Shaikh’s plea pointed out, “There is insurmountable evidence against Vanzara which undisputedly proves the existence of a prima facie case against him. The lower court judge not only chose to discard the testimony of more than 40 prosecution witnesses, he also completely ignored the irrefutable evidence on record, such as the call detail record between Vanzara and other accused persons.”

On August 1, 2017, dismissing the case, the trial court said, “Considering the quality of material on record against Vanzara and taking into consideration the entire prosecution story, to my mind it is clear that there is no prima facie material against him to connect him to the abduction followed by the killing of Sohrabuddin, Kauser Bi and Tulsiram Prajapati as one of the main conspirator. In fact, even the prosecution has not whispered the presence of this accused at the spot on the date and time of abduction followed by the said killing.

“In view of such fact and in the absence of evidence of his involvement in any manner, I am of the view that the role attributed against Vanzara as reflected does definitely come within the sphere of discharge of his official duty. Consequently I hold that prior sanction to prosecute this accused was required as contemplated under Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure [Prosecution of Judges and public servants].”

—India Legal Bureau

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