After eluding the Central Bureau of Investigation for four days, former Gujarat minister Amit Shah, a close aide of Narendra Modi, on Sunday surrendered before the probe agency, which arrested him in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case.
Earlier in the day, Shah made a dramatic appearance at a Bharatiya Janata Party media briefing. Shah, 46, who resigned from the Modi government on Saturday following a charge sheet being filed against him, turned up at the BJP office in Ahmedabad, where he denied all the charges against him.
He then drove to the office of the CBI which arrested him and produced him before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate A Y Dave in Ahmedabad. Surprisingly, the CBI did not press for custody of Shah, who has been charged with murder, extortion, kidnapping and five other sections under the Indian Penal Code for the killing of Sohrabuddin and his wife Kausar Bi in 2005.
He was remanded by the magistrate to judicial custody for 13 days till August 7. "I have full faith in the judiciary and I am sure the allegations against me will be cleared by the courts," Shah said after he appeared during a press conference called by state BJP president R C Faldu at the BJP headquarters in Ahmedabad.
His appearance ended the suspense of his whereabouts since Thursday when he was first summoned by the CBI. Shah claimed that he was innocent and the charges against him were "fabricated, politically motivated and were on the instruction of Congress government" and demanded that his entire questioning by the CBI should be video-graphed.
Later, Shah went to the CBI office in Gandhinagar. Waving to the mediapersons after alighting from his car, he found that officers of the probe agency were waiting for him.
"The CBI officials told Shah that they will take him straight to the court to which he agreed," BJP leader Vijay Rupani, who accompanied Shah, said.
The BJP slammed Shah's arrest accusing the central government of misusing the CBI."All the charges against me are fabricated and they have been brought about at the behest of the Congress government at the Centre," Shah told reporters earlier.
"I have full faith in the judiciary, the people of Gujarat and BJP workers. I will fight the battle in the court of law and the party will fight the political battle at a political level," Shah said.
Replying to a query on where he was in the last couple of days, Shah said, "I was at the residence of one of my friends like you journalists."
"As far as the question of issuing summons is concerned, it seems summons were served as if I am an absconder and known criminal. I was not given any time as on July 22, the first summons was issued at 11 am asking me to appear before them (CBI) at 1 pm," Shah said.
"On the same day another summons was issued asking me to come before 1 pm giving me no time to hold legal consultations about the five-year-old case," Shah added.
Referring to Sohrabuddin, he alleged that 40 AK-47 rifles, about a hundred grenades and Rs one lakh worth of ammunition were recovered from Sohrabuddin's house. "Can anyone say that he was innocent?" he asked.
Shah did not appear before the CBI on Thursday and had gone underground after that. The CBI had on Friday filed a chargesheet in the special court in Ahmedabad charging him with murder, kidnapping, extortion and destruction of evidence in the fake encounter case of alleged gangster Sohrabuddin and his wife Kauser Bi in 2005.
"The incident happened five years back. But the CBI acted in such haste that they did not even give me enough time to reply. I will respond to all the charges and will expose the people who are behind bringing of these allegations," Shah said.
He also said that the entire exercise was an effort to destabilise the BJP government in the state.
"There is no need to drag Chief Minister Narendra Modi into this issue," he said.
He also said that he has addressed a letter to the people of Gujarat to clarify his position. Modi, who was in New Delhi on Saturday to attend a meeting of the National Development Council, had said that Shah was "completely innocent" and the charges against him were "politically motivated".
CBI teams had been searching for Shah and other accused at various locations after the filing of the chargesheet against them. Shah's anticipatory bail plea was rejected by the Special CBI Court on Friday. The chargesheet has named Shah as a key accused along with IPS officers D G Vanzara, Rajkumar Pandian, M N Dinesh and Abhay Chudasama.
In all, 15 accused have been named. According to the chargesheet, it was Shah who had entrusted the task of eliminating Sohrabbuddin Sheikh, an alleged gangster, to Vanzara, Pandia and Chudasama. Sheikh was killed in an encounter near Ahmedabad on November 26, 2005.
The CBI is conducting a fresh probe into the encounter on the directions of the Supreme Court.
Earlier, state BJP President R C Faldu alleged that Shah, who was "totally innocent", had been "falsely implicated" in the case for which the CBI has been "misused".
"We know that Congress governments have had the habit of disturbing non-Congress governments in states. We feel that the Congress is afraid of the support the Janata Dal - United, the BJP and its allies have in poll-bound Bihar," he added.