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New Delhi, October 30, 2010
The Supreme Court today asked former Gujarat Minister of State for Home Amit Shah, who got bail yesterday from the Gujarat High Court in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter death case, to stay out of the State till November 15.
The decision came at a special hearing at Mr Justice Aftab Alam's residence here on a plea by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for cancellation of Mr Shah's bail.
The bench, comprising Mr Justice Alam and Mr Justice R M Lodha, told Mr Shah to leave the State by tomorrow morning and stay out till further orders. It posted the matter for hearing on November 15.
The court asked the CBI to supply a copy of its petition to Mr Shah by November 6, who has to file his reply by November 12 after which the agency will file its rejoinder.
The court issued a notice to Mr Shah, asking him to explain why his bail should not be cancelled.
The CBI had filed a petition late last night at the residence of the Supreme Court Registrar and requested him to obtain necessary orders in the matter.
CBI counsel K T S Tulsi said the agency had strong apprehensions that Mr Shah could wield a lot of influence with witnesses and also tamper with evidence in the case.
Mr Tulsi also pointed to the fact that Mr Shah was released from the Sabarmati Central Jail in Ahmedabad around 10.30 pm last night, contrary to the prison manual, and said this showed that he enjoyed immense clout in the State.
Mr Shah's lawyer Upendra Yadav told the court that his client was ready to stay out of Gujarat as directed by the court.
The former minister was arrested by the CBI on July 25 in connection with the Sohrabuddin case.
Mr Shah, 46, a close aide of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, had resigned from his ministerial post on July 24 before appearing before the CBI at its Gandhinagar office in response to a summons. The agency had placed him under arrest immediately and later that day produced him in court, which sent him to judicial custody.
Mr Shah's resignation had come a day after the CBI had named him as one of the accused in the case that also involves the killing of Sohrabuddin's wife, Kausar Bi.
The CBI 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 (causing 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, the 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 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 CBI had accordingly filed the chargesheet within that deadline.
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.
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.
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. His 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.