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Ahmedabad, July 23, 2010
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) today named Gujarat Minister of State for Home Amit Shah as one of the accused in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case in a chargesheet filed by it in a special court here and all indications were that he would be arrested soon.
Mr Shah, who did not turn up before the CBI for questioning today in the case in response to a summons, applied for anticipatory bail but the court rejected the plea.
Earlier, a little after noon, a team of lawyers representing Mr Shah turned up at the CBI office in the state capital, Gandhinagar, with a request that he be provided with a list of the questions that the agency wanted to ask him.
Mr Mitesh Amin, one of the Minister's lawyers, told reporters, before going into the CBI's office, that the agncy had provided Mr Shah with very little time to respond and wanted to question him about events that took place five years ago.
"If they provide us a questionnaire, we can consult the records and provide proper answers," Mr Amin said.
The lawyer said Mr Shah very much wanted to appear before the CBI and to cooperate in the investigations into the case. "But we feel that that the time given to us is very little," he said. The CBI, however, turned down the Minister's request.
A CBI official later told mediapersons that Mr Shah, a key aide of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, had failed to turn up before the agency despite two summons and it had finally filed the chargesheet without examining him.
Mr Shah's whereabouts were not known immediately and sources said CBI teams were trying to locate him.
The CBI said it had filed the chargesheet against 15 accused persons in the Court of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Ahmedabad, under sections 120-B (conspiracy), read with sections 342 (wrongful confinement), 364 (kidnapping and abducting to murder), 365 (kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine a person), 368 (wrongfully concealing or keeping in confinement kidnapped or abducted person), 384 (extortion), 302 (murder) and 201 (cuasing disappearance of valuable evidence of offence or giving false information to screen offenders) in the fake killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and the brutal murder of his wife, Kausar bi.
Apart from Mr Shah, these accused persons include Deputy Inspector General of Police D G Vanzara, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad Crime Branch Abhay Chudasama, two superintendents of police, three police inspectors, three sub-inspectors, and the Chairman and a Director of the Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank.
The CBI said in a statement that it had not found adequate evidence against three accused who were earlier sent for trial. They are: Ajay Parmar, Police Constable, Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS), Ahmedabad; Sant Ram Sharma, Police Constable, ATS, Ahmedabad and B.A.Rathore, Inspector, ATS, Ahmedabad. The CBI, therefore, did not include them in its charge sheet.
"The Minister of State for Home (Government of Gujarat) was issued summons for his appearance before the CBI on 22.07.2010 and 23.07.2010. He did not appear and hence charge sheet was filed without his examination," it said.
The CBI requested the court to keep investigation open for further investigation under section 173 (8) of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C) for probing further into the larger conspiracy.
The agency said it had filed the chargesheet within the stipulated 90 days after effecting the arrest of Chudasama.
The CBI is investigating the case at the behest of the Supreme Court, which asked it in January this year to take over the case and submit a report within six months, that is by the end of July.
The apex court had directed the agency to look into all aspects of the killing of Sohrabuddin and Kausar Bi and also to look into the larger conspiracy.
The CBI had registered a case on February 1 this year. Earlier, the CID Crime of Gjarat had filed a chargesheet against 13 accused persons. One more person wa arraigned as accused on the application of a Deputy Superintendent of Police and Deputy Inspector General of Police of Gujarat.
During the course of investigation, the CBI had examined 278 witnesses, collected 191 documents and 70 material objects. The investigation was spread over five states --Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.
Apart from Vanzara and Chudasama, two other Indian Police Service (IPS) officers, Rajkumar Pandian of Gujarat and Dinesh M N of Rajasthan, have been arrested by the police in the case, along with ten other policemen.
Earlier in the day, Mr Shah's lawyer had told reporters that the Minister very much wanted to appear before the CBI and to cooperate in the investigations into the case. "But we feel that that the time given to us is very little," he said.
The CBI had summoned Mr Shah to appear before it yesterday but he did not show up, apparently because he was out of town and the notice was too short. The agency issued a second summons yesterday asking him to appear before it by 1 pm today.
Sohrabuddin was shot dead on November 26, 2005 on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. The Gujarat police said that Sohrabuddin was a terrorist and had plotted to kill Mr Modi and that he was killed in an encounter. But various investigations since then have indicated that it was a case of a fake encounter.
According to various accounts, Sohrabuddin and his wife, Kausar Bi, were picked up from a bus and taken to a farmhouse. Some days later, Sohrabuddin was shot dead. Hiw wife was also killed later and reports have said that her body was burnt and disposed of by members of the state Anti-Terrorist Squad.
The CBI has collected evidence suggesting that Mr Shah was in constant touch over the telephone with senior policemen involved in the case during the period before and after the fake encounter and sources said he would be questioned closely on this aspect.
Mr Shah has not been attending cabinet meetings of late and has also been absent from his office in recent days amidst growing speculation about the possibility of his arrest by the CBI.