Former Gujarat minister of state for home Amit Shah Thursday washed his hands off the 2005 Sohrabuddin Sheikh staged shootout case and told the Supreme Court that there was “good evidence” against 13 policemen for their involvement in the killing.
The apex court bench of Justice Aftab Alam and Justice R.P. Desai was told that then deputy inspector general of police “Geetha Johri did a great and honest investigation, gathered good evidence to make a prima facie case against top officers of Gujarat police”.
Appearing for Shah, senior counsel Ram Jethmalani answered in the negative to the court’s query if he believed that Sohrabuddin shootout was “genuine”.
The court asked: “It is not your case that Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter was genuine.”
Shah is opposing the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) plea challenging the Gujarat High Court order of Oct 29, 2010, granting him bail in the case.
Jethmalani told the court that the staged shootout Sohrabuddin Sheikh and the subsequent disappearance of his wife Kausar Bi was unlawful. “It is bad in law. It is contrary to law. But it was done to get rid of a terrorist,” the senior counsel told the court.
Court said that “then every murderer is a terrorist”. Jethmalani said that a “terrorist is not just one who comes from across the border but even one who carries weapon and kills people”.
Gujarat’s Additional Advocate General Tushar Mehta told the court that Sohrabuddin Sheikh was once booked under the anti-terror law for possessing 25 AK-47 guns and 200 grenades. He told the court that he would furnish the details in the next hearing.
In an attempt to rebut the CBI’s charge that Sohrabuddin Sheikh was killed for extortion, Jethmalani said: “Fake encounter is a fake encounter. But the motive was not extortion but to get rid of a hated criminal.”
Jethmalani punched holes in the CBI charge sheet which he said was politically coloured.
He referred to the portion which said that inaction of the state government on 200 complaints alleging extortion against Amit Shah had demoralised witnesses and they were not forthcoming.
Justice Alam told CBI’s counsel Additional Solicitor General Vivek Tankha: “You are supposed to be a finest investigating agency. You will have to meet (reply) to these points.”
Jethmalani assailed the Jan 12, 2010 judgment of the apex court by which investigation in case was handed over to the CBI.
The senior counsel said that before ordering the CBI probe the court should have heard both Shah and Johri who were also before the court in the case.
Justice Alam said that in the hearing on the plea of the victim’s family members seeking CBI probe there was a pattern.
“There was a pattern. First, there was complete denial and the initial stand was that the encounter was genuine. As the evidence surfaced, there was an attempt to catch hold of the foot soldiers and middlemen and put a cap on the case.”
“The court felt at that point of time that there was an attempt to cap the investigation,” Justice Alam said.
Jethmalani intervened to say that “this kind of approach was possible, probable and the court’s anxiety was justified”.