Apex court notes probe lapses, halts Sohrabuddin killing trial (lead)

September 30th, 2008 - 8:54 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 30 (IANS) The Supreme Court Tuesday halted the trial of 13 police officials after noting lapses in the Gujarat police’s probe into the killing of Soharabuddin Sheikh allegedly in a staged shootout in Ahmedabad in November 2005.A bench of Justice Tarun Chatterjee and Justice Aftab Alam halted the trial on allegations that a team headed by Gujarat’s Inspector General of Police Geetha Johri, which has been probing the case on the apex court’s order, has deliberately botched the investigation to shield some police officers.

While ordering the Ahmedabad sessions court to suspend the trial, the bench directed the Gujarat High Court to confiscate the documents relating to the trial from the city court till further orders.

The bench suspended the trial following a day-long argument by Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam, assisting the apex court.

He enumerated several lapses in the probe by Johri’s team and demanded transfer of the probe to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) - endorsing Sheikh’s brother Rubabuddin Sheikh’s demand and reviving the initial demand of the central government.

Enumerating lapses in the charge sheet, detailing the findings of the probe that were filed in the Ahmedabad sessions court for holding the trial, Subramaniam said not a single police officer from Andhra Pradesh, whose police force was a party to the killings of Sohrabuddin, his wife Kausar Bi and their friend Tulsiram Prajapati, was brought to the book.

He pointed out to the court that the charge sheet has noted there were no official records available on the role of any police official from Hyderabad in the killings.

“What type of investigation is it? Will anybody create a record before committing a crime?” he asked.

Quoting from a preliminary inquiry report by inspector Solanki of the Gujarat police, Subramaniam told the court that several people were witness to the fact that Deputy Inspector General of Police D.G. Vanjhara’s team had kept Sheikh and his wife in a farmhouse on the outskirts of Ahmedabad and the two were repeatedly taken out from there to various places before being gunned down.

Yet, Johri’s team booked no one for killing Kausar Bi, he said.

Subramanaim said the probe by Johri’s team was largely based on the preliminary inquiry report, which was not submitted to the apex court.

Johri, present during the hearing, told IANS that her team had submitted that report to the Ahmedabad sessions court.

“We have held nothing back from the court,” she said, adding that owing to some technical and jurisdictional reasons, her team had not been able to take action on inspector Solanki’s report.

Subramaniam told the court that inspector Solanki knew of the staged killings and had conducted his own investigation even before the probe was handed over to Johri’s team.

He sought to impress upon the court that Johri’s team did not follow on the leads available from Solanki’s report.

Sheikh, Kausar Bi and Prajapati were killed in separate incidents in November 2005 after they were allegedly abducted by the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of the Gujarat police.

Vanjhara, heading the ATS, had announced Sheikh’s killing in a shootout with police and said he was a terrorist and on a mission to assassinate Chief Minister Narendra Modi and other prominent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders.

Following his brother’s plea before the Supreme Court, the Gujarat police have been investigating the matter again.

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