SC reserves verdict on Amit Shah’s bail in Sohrabuddin case (Lead)

September 6th, 2012 - 9:20 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 6 (IANS) The Supreme Court Thursday reserved its order on a CBI plea for cancelling the bail of former Gujarat minister Amit Shah in the 2005 Sohrabuddin Sheikh staged shootout and transfering the trial from Gujarat to Mumbai.

However, an apex court bench of Justice Aftab Alam and Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai indicated that it might not disturb the bail given to Shah, former minister of state for home, by the state high court, subject to certain conditions, but may transfer the trial to Mumbai.

Sohrabuddin Sheikh was killed in a staged shootout by Gujarat Police in 2005. Shah was in the Gujarat cabinet when the killing took place.

The court asked Shah’s counsel Ram Jethmalani: “How do you assure that if we allow you outside that you will not interfere with the course of the trial?”

“You (Amit Shah) are a political person. You are an influential person,” the court said.

Jethmalani said on Shah’s behalf: “I am not an influential person. Had I been so, I would not be in a position that I am in.”

He told the court that Shah would give an undertaking that he would not interfere with the course of trial or subvert it as was being alleged by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

If Shah) breaches it, Jethmalani said, he would not appear to defend him but to prosecute him.

Taking exception to the conduct of the Gujarat government, the court said that instead of being an ally of the court in reaching to the bottom of the case it had acted in an adversarial manner, often adopting a hostile attitude.

Shah was named as an accused in Sohrabuddin Sheikh’s killing in which the CBI described him as a head of an extortion syndicate in Gujarat. Shah was arrested by the probe agency July 25, 2010 for his alleged involvement in Sohrabuddin’s killing.

The former minister told the court: “I have no objection in being tried by any court in Maharashtra but my bail may not be disturbed.”

The court wanted to know the position of the CBI which had opposed the grant of bail to Shah.

Appearing for the CBI, senior counsel Vivek Tankha said that it was a triple murder case and any grant of bail to Shah would influence the charge sheet in the 2006 Tulsiram Prajapati alleged staged shootout case. The probe agency’s reference to triple murder included the killings of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife Kausar Bi and Sohrabuddin’s aide Tulsiram Prajapati.

Reiterating its plea for the cancellation of Shah’s bail, Tankha told the court: “We have faced a lot of problems at the hands of the administration and we will continue to face it. The whole administrative machinery revolves around Amit Shah.”

“The magnitude of the state influence gets further magnified by the CBI charge sheet in Tulsiram Prajapati case,” Tankha told the court, pointing to “evidence on record of collusion/connivance of senior functionaries/officials in the state administration to derail the investigation”.

Tankha told the court that if Shah’s bail was not cancelled then other accused police officers in custody would also seek relief.

The CBI told the court that they would take another four weeks in completing the investigation into the involvement of Andhra Pradesh police officials in the Sohrabuddin case and in all six weeks to commence trial in the Tulsiram Prajapati case.

Amicus Curiae Gopal Subramaniam told the court that the conduct of the Gujarat government was evident from the judicial records of the apex court and orders passed by it.

He said that it was only in March 23, 2007 that the state government said that it was possible that some police officials may have committed the crime and it was being investigated.

The court noted that earlier the Gujarat government was in a strong denial mode.

“It was the state that was in mode of denial and you are holding against this person (Amit Shah). If you can say that all earlier denials were attributable to him, that will make the case…,” Justice Alam said.

Subramaniam said: “At least I may not establish whether the state of denial was attributable to him (Amit Shah) but there is a commonality of position.”

Sohrabuddin was killed by Gujarat Police Nov 25, 2005, in a staged shootout. Prajapati was killed in an alleged staged shootout Dec 28, 2006.

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