WHILE THE HIGHEST court of the country has ruled out any foul play in the death in 2014 of CBI judge BH Loya, who was hearing the high-profile case of alleged false encounter of suspected terrorist Sohrabuddin Shaikh, the suspicion lurking over the circumstances leading to the death of the judge are not likely to be forgotten soon.
Neither the opposition parties nor those inimical to the all-power BJP chief Amit Shah, the right hand of prime minister Narendra Modi, would give a decent burial to the question of ‘mysterious’ death of Judge Loya. It is, however, time to bring the focus back on the infamous case of alleged encounter killing of Sohrabuddin Shah and his associates. It had taken place 18 years ago in Gujarat when Modi was the chief minister of the state and Shah his home minister.
Sohrabuddin Shaikh and his wife Kausar Bi
The ‘encounter’, which has remained suspect from the day it took place in November 2005 near Ahmedabad, has remained in headlines because of the several twists and turns the case has taken over the years. The unanswered questions relate to the inconsistencies in the court proceedings, selective discharge of high-profile accused, questions over granting of bail, abrupt transfer of judges and witnesses turning hostile.
A former high court judge, Justice Abhay M Thipsay, who has himself decided some bail applications in the case, recently brought some of these inconsistencies in public domain.
No less than 15 of the 38 accused in the case being heard by a CBI court in Mumbai have been discharged so far. The court had framed charges including murder, criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence against 22 of the initial 38 accused. Also, shockingly, 22 of the 30 witnesses have turned hostile since November last year.
The unanswered questions relate to the inconsistencies in the court proceedings, selective discharge of high-profile accused, questions over granting of bail, abrupt transfer of judges and witnesses turning hostile.
As per the prosecution, the case dates back to November 2005 when Sohrabuddin Shaikh, his wife Kausarbi and associate Tulasiram Prajapati were forced to alight from a Sangli-bound bus from Hyderabad. Subsequently Sohrabuddin was killed in an ‘encounter’. His wife, who was an eyewitness to the killing of her husband, was also killed but her remains were never found. Some time later the eyewitness in the case, Prajapati, was also killed in an ‘encounter’.
Justice Thipsay pointed out at the strange manner in which several high-profile accused in the case were discharged and the ‘absurd’ inconsistencies he found in orders passed by the Special CBI court currently hearing the case. He went on record to say that all these and other aspects of the proceedings point to the "failure of justice and of the justice delivery system”.
He pointed out that it was unusual that bail was denied to a number of accused for several years and then another court held that there was was no prima facie case against those accused. He also found that lower level police officers were not discharged while the seniors were discharged even though the material or evidence against them was the same.
All these factors need to be probed thoroughly.
It would also be prudent for Amit Shah and other prominent accused, who had been discharged, that they should ask for an independent judicial inquiry. Otherwise they would always remain under the shadow of suspicion.
But is it too much to expect from the judicial system in the country which has shameful number of 3 crore cases pending including over two crore in subordinate courts. Despite the high regard given to the Justice delivery system in ancient India, including the myth of the Throne of Vikramyadita, a king known for fair and quick justice, the judicial delivery system leaves much to be desired.
It takes a life time or even generations to get justice in India. There are the unresolved cases dating back to several decades where victims are still waiting for justice. Among those are the cases pertaining to the 1984 killings that took place in Delhi and elsewhere.
Here it takes a life time or even generations to get justice. While Sohrabuddin case has not been solved, and killers not punished, for the last 18 years, there are the unresolved cases dating back to several decades where victims are still waiting for justice. Among those are the cases pertaining to the massacre that took place in Delhi and elsewhere. The alleged killers have been roaming free not only during the Congress rule at the Centre, and it is alleged that most killers were members or sympathisers of the party, but also when the BJP (an ally of the Shiromani Akali Dal) is at the helm of affairs.
Enough damage has already been done. It is high time to focus on the justice delivery system in the country. After all, as the adage goes, justice delayed is justice denied.
*(The author, a freelance journalist, is a former Resident Editor of Indian Express, Chandigarh, and reported on the political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, North-Eastern India, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in his long, illustrious career. This article was also published by lokmarg.com and is being reproduced here with the due permission of the author. - Ed)
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