As the Central Bureau of Investigation closes in on former Gujarat minister of state for home Amith Shah in connection with the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case, it is said that the agency has relied a lot on the report by the Gujarat crime investigation department. It was this report by then CID boss Geetha Johri that blew the lid off the role played by several police officers of Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh in the encounter. Vicky Nanjappa investigates
How it all began
In the year 2006, under inquiry number 66/2006, an inquiry officer by the name V L Solanki submitted a report to the inspector general of police, Gujarat state CID (crime), that he along with K K Pandya and C V Christian had visited Hyderabad on July 2, 2006.
They also visited Nagda, Ujjain and Indore between July 24 and 27, 2006. During their visits the statements of the relatives of Sohrabuddin and also certain photographs of Sohrabuddin and Kausar Bi were obtained.
The statements of the relatives prima facie conclude that on November 22-23, 2005, Sohrabuddin and his wife Kausar Bi were travelling from Hyderabad to Sangli in a bus.
The inquiry officer also recorded the statements of several witnesses. These witnesses who were co-passengers in the same bus identified the deceased and they said the duo were sitting in seat numbers 29 and 30.
It is also clear from the statement that around 1.30 am, at about two kilometres ahead of Tandola village, a Qualis van bearing registration AP-11 (complete number not known) intercepted and stopped the bus; in the meantime, a Tata Sumo also reached there.
Two persons got down from the Qualis and said it was a police checking. Three men with revolvers also got down from the Tata Sumo and entered the bus and picked up two men and one woman.
It is also said in the inquiry report that on November 24, 2005, Rajasthan police officials named Dinesh M N, superintendent of police, Udaipur; Abdul Rehman, police inspector, Pratapnagar police station; Himanshu Singh, sub-inspector; and Shyam Singh, sub inspector; met D G Vanzara, deputy inspector general, operations, Gujarat Anti Terrorism Squad, and other police officers and discussed about the activities related to Sohrabuddin.
Vanzara admitted that on an intelligence input regarding the whereabouts of Sohrabuddin, a team consisting of Dinesh M N and Rajkumar Pandiyan, superintendent of police, ATS, laid a trap for Sohrabuddin between Narol and Vishala toll naka on the highway.
On November 26, 2005, around 520 hours, Sohrabuddin came on a motorcycle at the place of offence and was identified by N H Dabhi, police inspector, who tried to stop and apprehend him.
But Sohrabuddin slipped and opened fire on the police party and tried to escape. In counter, the police team fired at Sohrabuddin and was rushed to civil hospital where he was declared dead.
In this connection an FIR (Ist C.R. No. 5/2005 u/s 120B, 121, 121A, 122, 123, 307, 186, 224 of IPC and Sec. (I-B) A of Arms Act and Sec. 135 of B.P. Act) was lodged in the ATS police station itself. The ATS themselves investigated the matter and filed a closure report in the form of abetted summary.
It is important to note here that normally such cases of police firing are registered at the local police station whereas the ATS has been declared a special police station for registering offences against the state, Arms Act and NDPS Act.
It is further significant to note that the said FIR alleged that Sohrabuddin was likely to kill Bharatiya Janata Party leaders.
Second Interim Report of Preliminary Inquiry No. 66/2006 dated 7/12/2006
The enquiry officer recorded the statements of the below mentioned witnesses which is part of this report:
One of the persons who was travelling on November 22-23, 2005, in the same bus as a co-passenger with his family said that a Qualis car overtook and stopped the bus. Two persons carrying weapons came out of the Quallis, and thereafter a Tata Sumo came.
Three persons, who were looking like policemen, came inside the bus, and said that it was a police checking and took away two men and one woman from the bus. The said witness identified by photographs that out of the three, two of them were Sohrabuddin and his wife Kausar Bi.
Third Interim Report of Preliminary Inquiry No. 66/2006 dated 15-16/12/2006
The Inquiry Officer in his third interim report mentioned the versions of the following witnesses:
A resident of Ahmedabad in his statement dated December 15, 2006, stated that on November 25, 2005, his motorcycle no GJI DM 8039 was stolen from outside his residence and he lodged an FIR of the said incident at Amraiwadi police station. After two to three days, the said witness came to know from a newspaper report that his motorcycle was lying in the ATS office and was recovered from a person who was killed in a police encounter.
A resident of Gandhinagar in his statement dated December 14, 2006, stated that on November 23, 2005, M L Parmar, deputy superintendent of police, ATS, called the witness on mobile and asked to arrange for a farmhouse for a secret investigation.
Constable Santram Sharma made an arrangement of a farmhouse named Disha Farm, Jamiyatpura village, near Adalaj, Gandhinagar, belonging to Girishbhai Chhotalal Patel.
On November 24, 2005, M L Parmar called Sharma on mobile at around 1830 hrs and asked the location of Sharma, who was at Koba circle in Gandhinagar. Parmar requested Sharma to be there and in 10 to 15 minutes.
Parmar came in a Qualis which had a light over it. A white colour Maruti car also came along with the said Qualis, in which a driver and three persons were sitting.
Parmar requested Sharma to show the farmhouse and they reached there between 1845 and 1900 hrs. At that time, an employee of the farmhouse was also present.
Sharma stated that some policemen came out of the Qualis with a man whose face was covered and was handcuffed. There was a woman along with them in a burkha.
They were taken to the office of the farmhouse. At that time some more policemen also got down from the Maruti car. Chaube was a policeman in the said team.
On November 25, 2005, Sharma visited the farmhouse, where the door of the office was closed and outside three to four policemen were present in plain clothes.
On November 26, 2005, at around 0800 hrs Girishbhai called Sharma and requested to take the lady with burkha from the office of the farmhouse to any other place.
Sharma requested the same to Parmar, and at around 1000 hrs, on the instruction of Parmar, the lady with the burkha was taken in a Maruti with some policemen.
On the same day, at around 1115 hrs, Parmar called Sharma on his mobile and requested him to come to the civil hospital along with a respectable person.
So Sharma, along with a friend Naresh Patel went to the civil hospital and went to the postmortem room and met Parmar. Parmar showed them a dead body with a bullet wound on his head and made Naresh Patel a panch witness.
Thereafter, Parmar informed Sharma that he is the same person who was kept at Disha farm alongwith a woman with burkha and as the Rajasthan police came to take him, he tried to escape and was shot dead in an encounter.
His name is Sohrabuddin and he had come to kill Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The said witness Sharma identified Sohrabuddin and Kausar Bi from the photographs.
Girishbhai Chhotabhai Patel, owner of Disha Farm, in his statement corroborated the aforesaid story and statement of Satish Sharma. Dineshbhai Visabhai Koli (Patel), an employee of Disha Farm in his statement corroborated the aforesaid story and statement of Satish Sharma and Girishbhai Patel. Nareshbhai Ranchhodbhai Patel, the panch witness corroborated the aforesaid story.
Fourth Interim Report of Preliminary Inquiry No. 66/2006 dated 22/1/2007
The inquiry officer again visited Hyderabad and this time Geetha Johri too was present. They conducted an inquiry of the cleaner of the bus who identified the deceased persons.
The inquiry officer thereafter came back to Ahmedabad and on January 17, 2007, recorded a statement of Ajaykumar Bhagwandas Parmar, an armed police constable, who was working in ATS from 2002 to March 2006 as a personal assistant of Rajkumar Pandiyan.
Parmar stated that on November 20, 2005, while he was on duty in the office of ATS Ahmedabad, at around 1700 hrs Pandiyan instructed him to be ready to go out for some operation for two to three days along with Dabhi.
On 20/11/05 Dabhi and the other officers arrived at Hyderabad in a private Qualis car. After reaching Hyderabad, Dabhi from his mobile called Rajkumar Pandiyan and after talking to him, went to the CISF office at Hyderabad and also went to the residence of Radhakrishnan (an IPS officer of Gujarat cadre, now on deputation to CISF, Hyderabad), ex-SP Gandhinagar, where they reported to Rajkumar Pandiyan who was present there.
Santram Sharma, a commando stayed along with Rajkumar Pandiyan and the other four persons, ie, Dabhi, Jadeja, Ajaykumar Parmar and Gurdayalsingh stayed in CISF's rooms.
On November 22, 2005, Dabhi contacted Pandiyan and then they met up at the IPS mess in Hyderabad where the latter was staying. Later Dabhi instructed Parmar to make two fake number plates for the Qualis and the same was prepared at Hyderabad.
Rajkumar Pandiyan instructed Parmar to meet him at the ATS office after having his dinner, and as per the said instruction, Parmar reached the ATS office.
Thereafter, on November 26, 2005, at around 03.30 hrs in the night DIG Vanzara, Pandiyan, Dabhi and the officers of Rajasthan police and some police personnel in the government vehicles left the ATS office.
At around 04.00 hrs in the night Dabhi called Parmar and instructed him to bring the Hero Honda motorcycle lying in the backyard of the ATS office to the Narol circle.
In about 25 minutes, Parmar reached the Narol circle, where the vehicles of ATS including the vehicles of Vanzara and Rajkumar Pandiyan were parked and all the aforesaid officers were present there.
At that place, ie, between Ahmedabad circle and Vishala circle toll naka near main feeder GEB line, Vanzara, Pandiyan and Rajasthan SP Dinesh M N were discussing something.
At that time in a Maruti car, Parmar, Chaube brought Sohrabuddin there. At that time, a sub-inspector of Rajasthan police took away the above-mentioned motorcycle brought by Parmar, drove it for a short distance and jumped from the motor cycle, and the motorcycle fell down.
At that time Sohrabuddin was pulled out of the Maruti car by Chaube and was thrown on the road. Police Inspector Abdul Rehman from his service pistol fired two rounds, ASI Ram Singh one round, ASI Himanshu Singh two rounds and PI Dabhi three rounds on Sohrabuddin.
Sohrabuddin was lying in a pool of blood. Thereafter Vanzara instructed Parmar to take Sohrabuddin to the civil hospital. During this operation, Sohrabuddin did not fire any round from any weapon.
It is also stated by Parmar in his statement dated January 17, 2007, that subsequent to the encounter of Sohrabuddin, Kausar Bi, who was brought alongwith him, was not seen. It is stated by Parmar that after two-three days of the said encounter, he was told by Jadeja, the driver of ATS, that Kausar Bi was burnt and killed in mountains near DIG Vanzara's Hillol village of Sabarkantha district.
Another witness, a head constable, in his statement of January 19, 2007, stated and corroborated the aforesaid facts disclosed by Parmar.
The killing of Tulsiram Prajapati
Tulsiram Prajapati was at that time lodged in Central Jail, Udaipur and was brought under escort of Udaipur police to attend a date in the court of 13th Metropolitican Magistrate, Ahmedabad, in connection with an offence registered.
After the hearing, Prajapati was escorted back in a train on December 27, 2006, at about 0205 hours. The train was stopped at Himatnagar. It transpires that two men allegedly fired and threw chilly powder in the eyes of the policemen and thereby succeeded in securing the release of Tulsiram Prajapati.
Having escaped, Tulsiram Prajapati, as per police records, was allegedly next sighted in Banaskantha district on December 28, 2006, at 0500 hours and was killed in a police encounter.
In brief, as per the FIR, on December 28, 2006, at 0500 hours, Pandya, Police Sub-Inspector of Special Operation Group, Banaskantha district along with a posse of policemen consisting of Rajasthan and Gujarat police were patrolling in Ambaji town, and at 0430 hours they proceeded towards Sharhad Chapri road.
At that time they saw three individuals tried to stop a Matador car, which was travelling ahead of them. The Matador did not stop. The three individuals then tried to stop the police jeep as they came abreast.
At that point of time, as per the FIR, ASI Naransinh Fatehsinh Chauhan recognised one of the three persons as Tulsiram Prajapati, who took out a weapon from his waist and fired at the jeep.
As per the police version, the bullet hit the mud-guard on the left side of the jeep. All the three then started running away and on being chased, two individuals escaped under the cover of darkness, whereas one individual, namely Tulsiram Prajapati, stopped running, turned back and fired at the police party.
In return PSI Pandya fired two rounds while ASI Naransinh Fatehsinh and PC Yudhveersinh Nathusinh of Rajasthan police also fired, which injured Tulsiram Prajapati, and on being brought to Ambaji Hospital, he was pronounced dead.
The above case of police firing and resultant death of Tulsiram Prajapati appears to be highly suspicious for the following reasons.
It is not possible for nine people inclusive of a police driver to sit in one jeep and proceed for patrolling in the manner narrated in the FIR. The constraint of space makes this impossibility.
The FIR does not specify where ASI Naransinh Fatehsinh was sitting in the jeep, which enabled him to identify the deceased Tulsiram Prajapati.
At 5'O clock on a winter morning, it is very dark and this version that ASI Naransinh Fatehsinh, identified Tulsiram Prajapati does not seem plausible, even if, as claimed, he recognised Tulsiram Prajapati from the headlight of the jeep.
It is absolutely impossible to believe that Tulsiram Prajapati and his alleged accomplice would ever stop the police jeep. Every police jeep in Gujarat has a yellow light blazing on top of the vehicles and it is not possible to believe that any genuine fugitive would ever stop such a vehicle.
There is no obvious reason as to why Tulsiram Prajapati should loiter and be around Ambaji area of Banaskantha district.
It is also strange that those who have weapons will also use chilly powder.
It is not a coincidence that Banaskantha district comprises of Border Range of which DG Vanzara is in-charge. In fact, Vanzara was transferred out of ATS on December 13, 2006, and resumed duties in Border Range immediately.
It is learnt that he personally spoke to Vipul Agarwal, superintendent of police, Banaskantha district, who is a novice and young officer and arranged the said encounter.