by Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association, JTSA
Even by the plummeting standards set in the last few months, the decision of the special CBI court in discharging Amit Shah, (accused no. 16 in the second chargesheet; accused no. 1 in the third chargesheet) in the Sohrabuddin encounter case, seems outrageous.
The Special CBI court without waiting for even the trial to commence, without weighing the evidence at length, seems to have suddenly concurred with the defence and the ruling party’s view that Amit Shah was caught in a political trap. Why this impatience with the process of the trial? And Shah is no ordinary accused, or accessory with a side role: he is accused of being the “king pin” or the mastermind of the triple murder.
“The entire record considered in totality”, says the court does not indicate to Shah’s role, and hence discharged him. However, what is the entire record? Even a simple, cursory looks suggest that in fact it is not hearsay but solid evidence of call details records, witness statements recorded under 161 and 164 CrPC, as well evidence of systematic and direct interference by Shah in the state CID probe into the encounter.
If the call details records were totally insignificant and proved nothing, why was there such a concerted effort to suppress all such information that pointed to Shah’s role?
The state CID investigations, which first led to the arrests of the senior police offcers, had taken on record phone call details between Shah and accused police officers. However, once the Supreme Court directed the transfer of investigation to the CBI, the CID failed to hand over the CD containing these phone conversations. A total of 331 conversations had been deleted from the record.
(“Another top cop under scanner for ‘erasing’ Amit Shah reference in CD” by Neeraj Chauhan and Ujjwala Nayudu, Indian Express, 27 July 2010.
Shah attempted to sabotage CID enquiry
IGP Gita Johri, who was made in charge of the state CID investigation, recorded in Part B of her first report, how Shah attempted to sabotage the enquiry. She has recorded that though she and the Investigating Officer Solanki did not face any “hurdle” initially, “However, as soon as the statements of witnesses pertaining to confinement of Sohrabuddin and Kausarbi in the Farm House of Shri Girish Patel at Ahmedabad came to be recorded, it came to the knowledge of Shri Vanzara and Shri Rajkumar Pandian [two of the accused officers]. It is further learnt that these officers brought the above facts to the notice of Respondent No. 2, Shri Amit Shah, Minister of State for Home, Government of Gujarat.”
It further states that Shah “brought to bear pressure” on the enquiry process, resulting in the enquiry papers being taken away from her “under the guise of scrutiny”. He “directed Shri G.C. Raigar, Additional Director General of Police, CID (Crime & Railways) to provide him with the list of witnesses, both police and private, who are yet to be contacted by CID (Crime) for recording their statement in the said enquiry. Such direction of Minister of State for Home goes beyond the scope of his office, was patently illegal and apparently designed to provide the same list to accused police officers … so as to enable them to take measures in their defence.”
(See “Geetha Johri report speaks of ‘collusion of State government’”, By Neena Vyas, 5 May 2007, The Hindu. Link here: http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/article1838149.ece)
Creative Reading by the CBI Court:
The CBI court did not entertain a note written by Gita Johri, in which the sentence “systematic efforts on the part of the state government” was struck out. The CBI’s case had been that this sentence had been omitted under Shah’s political pressure, whereas the court interpreted it to mean that Johri was not happy with the investigation done by the investigating officer. This is a flight of fancy, if there can be one. In fact, it is a matter of record that Johri’s initial investigation, before she was removed, proved to be path breaking. However, when she was reinstated, she took a complete U-turn. So chaffed was the apex court with her that he chastised her, while praising the investigation of the IO Solanki. The Supreme Court observed the following:
“69. We have observed that from the record, it was found that Mr VL Solanki, an investigating officer, was proceeding in the right direction, but Ms Johri had not been carrying out the investigation in the right manner, in view of our discussions made here in above. It appears that Ms Johri had not made any reference to the second report of Solanki, and that though his first report was attached with one of her reports, the same was not forwarded to this Court.
- In the present circumstances and in view of the involvement of the police officials the State in this crime, we cannot shut our eyes and direct the State police authorities to continue with the investigation and the charge-sheet and for a proper and fair investigation, we also feel that CBI should be requested to take up the investigation and submit a report in this Court within six months from the date of handing over a copy of this judgment and the records relating to this crime to them.”
(Rubabuddin Sheikh v State of Gujarat reported in (2010) 2 SCC 200, p. 217.)
The Special CBI Court cannot act as though none of this happened. The “entire record” in fact points to Shah’s involvement. The conspiracy is that of three cold-blooded murders. By terming Shah’s implication in the triple murder fake encounter case as a political conspiracy carried out by CBI under directions from a rival political party, the special CBI court has cast aspersions on the Supreme Court which was monitoring the investigations closely at all stages.
Disregarding the statements of key witnesses:
The special CBI court also disregarded the statements of key witnesses: namely, the Patel brothers, Dashrath and Raman, proprietors of the successful Popular builders. Their statements to the CBI details how money was extorted from them and how they were being forced by Vanzara and cohorts to give a statement against Sohrabuddin. The statement describes a meeting as well telephonic conversation with Shah. This has been recorded under 164 CrPC, and yet this is not deemed evidence but hearsay?
One can only say that the pusillanimity of the CBI in first, not contesting Shah’s application of exemption from appearing before the court in encounter cases, then not challenging the bail to senior police officer N.K. Amin in the Supreme Court, then responding to Shah’s voluminous discharge application and marathon three day arguments with a perfunctory 15-20 minutes argument by a junior lawyer, had already made matters clear. The die had been cast on 16th May itself, when Amit Shah delivered the rich harvest of seats for the BJP.
But what it has exposed is the rot in our institutions: the u-turn of the CBI, the reinstatement of the accused cops on duty, some of them, such as Abhay Chudasma, being given coveted posting in the Vigilance squad. Worst of all, what it has shown is the abdication of even a modicum of judicial independence.