Sohrabuddin Killing: What 5 Witnesses Said Before Turning Hostile
Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Kausar Bi.
Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Kausar Bi.(Photo: File/Altered by The Quint)

Sohrabuddin Killing: What 5 Witnesses Said Before Turning Hostile

Despite the existence of ample and glaring evidence to prove that Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kausar Bi were killed in a fake encounter in November 2005, the odds are stacked against the prosecution. Of the 41 witnesses whose statements have been recorded so far (as of 1 February 2018), 29 have turned hostile.

Also Read: Sohrabuddin Encounter: Details of 29 Witnesses Who Turned Hostile

What is interesting to note is the pace at which the 12-year-old case is currently moving in the courts. The Special CBI court has, in a span of two months, managed to record the testimonies of 40 witnesses – no mean feat, given the pace of the trial in the 2005 encounter.

In an earlier report, The Quint had reported on the 29 witnesses who had turned hostile. Some of these witnesses were crucial to the CBI’s case against the Gujarat authorities.

Taking our investigation a step further, we bring you detailed testimonies of five crucial witnesses – two policemen, a passenger who was travelling on the same bus as Sohrabuddin and Kausar Bi, the owner of the farmhouse that the two were allegedly taken to, and a woman who hosted the couple at her Hyderabad residence.

Hostile Witness #1

Name: Nathuba Pravinsinh Jadeja
Occupation: Was a driver with the Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) in 2005

For the CBI, Nathuba Pravinsinh Jadeja was a prime witness to the alleged kidnapping of Sohrabuddin, Kausar Bi and Tulsiram Prajapati. He also witnessed the burning of Kausar Bi’s corpse by his seniors. On 26 April 2007, he narrated the sequence of events in his statement recorded before a magistrate under Section 164 CrPC.

The Original Statement

  • At around 7pm on 22 November 2005, then ATS SP Rajkumar Pandian and other officers ordered Nathuba Pravinsinh Jadeja to get in a Qualis and follow two Tata Sumo cars on the Hyderabad-Pune highway. Around midnight, all three cars began following a luxury bus.
  • Forty-five minutes later, at 12:45 am, Rajkumar Pandiyan instructed Nathuba Jadeja to overtake the bus and make it stop. Pandiyan and other officers went inside the bus and emerged with three people – a woman dressed in a burkha, and two men.
  • The two men, escorted by another ATS officer, were made to sit in the Qualis that Nathuba Jadeja was driving. From here, the three vehicles began to head to Ahmedabad via Pune. At Pune, the two Tata Sumo vehicles split away from the Qualis.
  • Nathuba was instructed to drive towards the Koba Circle, situated between Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad. Two ATS officers met them at this spot and asked them to follow their car to a farmhouse.
  • The two men were dropped off at this farmhouse.
  • Three days later, on 25 November 2005, between 1:30 am and 2 am, ATS officer Dhabi Saheb came to the ATS office. He was accompanied by three officers of the Rajasthan Police. Dhabi Saheb asked Nathuba Jadeja to drive the car from Narol circle to Vishala circle, on the outskirts of Ahmedabad.
  • Dhabi instructed Nathuba to halt his vehicle near a big electric pole on the road. Dhabi and the three Rajasthan Police officers got down from the car as Nathuba drove the car ahead to park it.
  • Nathuba heard the firing of shots and reversed the car to reach the spot where Dhabi and the three Rajasthan police officers had gotten out of the vehicle. He saw that a severely injured man was lying on the road. A bike lay next to him. The injured man was put in Nathuba’s car and taken to the hospital.
  • Later, Nathuba Jadeja found out that the man he had taken to the civil hospital was the same man who had been picked up from the luxury bus. Nathuba learned that the man’s name was Sohrabuddin and that he had succumbed to the bullet wounds.
  • On 28 November, three days after Nathuba took Sohrabuddin to the hospital, he got a call from the then ATS DIG DG Vanzara’s office. He was instructed to assist another ATS officer named Chauhan get an old Tata tempo, stack it up with dry wood and drive to Ilol village.
  • Between 10 pm to 11 pm that day, they arrived at a river bank at Ilol village, where Vanzara, Pandiyan and other officers were already present. A body was brought out of a jeep. A pyre was constructed of the wood brought by Nathuba in the tempo. Vanzara struck a match and lit the pyre.
  • The body was that of Kausar Bi, the lady in the burkha who had been escorted off the bus on the night of 22 November 2005.

The Retraction

While recording his statement before Special CBI Judge SJ Sharma on 13 December 2017, Nathuba Pravinsinh Jadeja denied everything he had testified to 10 years ago. In fact, he went a step ahead and accused the CBI of forcing him to make his original statement before a magistrate. He made the following statements:

  • Nathuba Pravinsinh Jadeja said he had never worked with then ATS SP Rajkumar Pandiyan. He said he had not left Gujarat during the period in question.
  • He refused to recognise some of the accused ATS officers present in court.
  • He said that he had earlier recorded a statement with the CID Gujarat Police and alleged that the CBI officer forced him to make another statement before the magistrate.

Hostile Witness #2

Name: Gurudayalsingh Choudhary

Occupation: Was a driver with the Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) in 2005

On 10 May 2007, Gurdayalsingh Choudhary’s statement was recorded before a magistrate under Section 164 CrPC. Like Jadeja, he too was a prosecution witness to the alleged kidnapping of Sohrabuddin, Kausar Bi and Tulsiram Prajapati.

The Original Statement

  • On 20 November 2005, then Inspector ATS Dhabi informed Gurudayalsingh Choudhary that he was to work with him on a secret operation.
  • Two days later, on 22 November, ATS SP Rajkumar Pandiyan asked him to accompany him for the secret operation. They travelled on the Hyderabad-Pune highway in a Tata Sumo vehicle. Nathuba Jadeja followed them in a separate vehicle. Gurudayalsingh Choudhary was accompanied by three officers of the Andhra Pradesh Police and ATS Inspector Ajay Parmar.
  • At around midnight, all three cars were trailing the luxury bus, in which Sohrabuddin and two others were traveling. Forty-five minutes later, the Qualis, which was a part of the convoy, overtook the luxury bus and brought it to a halt.
  • A lady in a burkha was brought out of the vehicle and made to sit in the Tata Sumo that Choudhary was driving. She was weeping and the officer present in the car tried to calm her down.
  • When the car reached Bharuch in Gujarat, post lunch hours, ATS Inspector Santram Sharma and the lady moved to the Qualis car, driven by Nathuba. (*Note: Nathuba has not mentioned this event in his statement.)
  • Choudhary then drove to the ATS office. He reached at 3:30 am, but rushed home after he received a phone call informing him that his nephew was unwell.
  • Three days later, on 25 November, Gurdayalsingh rejoined office and learned that Sohrabuddin Sheikh had been killed in an encounter.
  • Choudhary and the others were told by SP ATS Pandiyan to refrain from claiming travel allowance (fuel expenses) of the said operation. The travel expense was borne by ATS Inspector Dhabi. (This could possibly have been to keep the movement of official vehicles off the books.)

The Retraction

Ten years after recording his statement before a magistrate, Gurudayasingh denied everything in his statement before Special CBI Judge SJ Sharma on 17 December 2017. He denied knowing Nathuba Jadeja and claimed he had never travelled outside Gujarat for official work.

Hostile Witness #3

Name: Sharad Krushnaji Apte

Occupation: Commercial Artist

Sharad Apte was travelling on the same luxury bus as Sohrabuddin Sheikh, Kausar Bi and Tulsiram Prajapati. The CBI considered his testimony as crucial evidence to prove the kidnapping angle. On 3 March 2010, his statement was recorded before a magistrate under Section 164 CrPc.

The Original Statement

  • Apte claimed he was travelling from Hyderabad to Sangli, Maharashtra, in a luxury bus belonging to a company named Sangeeta Travels on 22 November 2005. He said he was accompanied by his family and that they were on their way to attend a book launch.
  • Post midnight, the bus was intercepted by a Qualis, and it drew to a halt. The Qualis was followed by a Tata Sumo. He said he saw three people get down from the Qualis and board the bus. They were in civil clothes, but one them had a rifle on him. They appeared to be policemen, Apte said in his statement.
  • They first picked out one person sitting in the front seat and left the bus. Then, they came back inside and picked out another man, whose burkha-clad wife followed him out of the bus.
  • When the three men told the woman to go back to her seat, she said, “Main apne shohar ke bina nahin jaoongee (I will not be separated from my husband)”. The three men and the woman had a lengthy argument.
  • Later, the men told the driver of the bus to resume the journey. The woman did not board the bus. She stayed back with her husband.
  • The CBI also recorded the testimony of Apte’s son as well as the bus driver and the bus cleaner as corroborative evidence. All three narrated the same sequence of events.
  • Apte and his son identified the photographs of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, Kausar Bi and Tulsiram Prajapati as the three people who had been taken out of the bus.
  • Apte, his son, the bus driver, and the bus cleaner – all four retracted their statements during examination.

The Retraction

When he was cross-examined in the Special CBI court on 6 December 2017, Apte retracted his testimony before the magistrate.

  • He said that he did not remember the date of travel. Neither did he remember whether he was travelling in a state bus or a private luxury bus.
  • He admitted that he travelled from Hyderabad to Sangli in a bus at night, but claimed he slept throughout the journey.
  • He claimed that no incident had taken place en route.
  • He claimed the CBI had brought him to a court and had made him sign a few papers. He said that something was written on the papers, but that he did not understand any of it.

Hostile Witness #4

Name: Girishbhai Chhotabhai Patel

Occupation: Owner of Disha Farm

Girishbhai Chhotabhai Patel was the owner of the Disha farmhouse where Sohrabuddin was kept after he was allegedly kidnapped by the police. On 10 March 2010, the CBI recorded Patel’s testimony, as well as that of two of his employees as corroborative evidence. At the time, Patel had confirmed that the police had detained Sohrabuddin in his farmhouse.

The Original Statement

  • A few days before the encounter, Girishbhai Chhotabhai Patel received a phone call from Satish Sharma, a friend who worked in the Regional Transport Office (RTO).
  • Sharma told him that a police officer wanted to meet him.
  • On 23 November 2005, Girishbhai Patel met Deputy SP ATS Ajay Parmar, who informed him that he would need to use his farmhouse for a few days for some secret police work.
  • Patel agreed and informed him that since he does not live at the farmhouse, the keys would be handed over to Parmar through his staff.
  • When Patel visited the farm on 25 November, his staff informed him that the police had brought two men and a burkha-clad woman to the property. On 26 November, Patel’s staff told him that the two men had been taken away by the police the night before, but that the woman was still being held inside. Later that day. Patel was informed that the lady had also been taken away by the police.
  • On 27 November, Girishbhai Patel’s friend Satish Sharma informed him that an encounter had taken place, in which a man named Sohrabuddin had been killed. Patel was told that it was the same man who was held at his farmhouse. Patel panicked, but was reassured by Sharma that he had helped the police in a secret operation.

The Retraction

When Girishbhai Patel was cross-examined before a Special CBI Court on 8 December 2017, he retracted his earlier statement. Two of his employees, who had earlier backed his statement, also retracted their testimonies.

  • Patel said that Satish Sharma had not met him at the time, neither had he introduced him to any policeman.
  • He said he had not given any police officer access to his farmhouse.
  • Patel claimed he did not know any of the accused.

Hostile Witness #5

Name: Saleema Begum

Saleema Begum is the sister of Nayeemuddin, who was an associate of Sohrabuddin Sheikh. Nayeemuddin was an accused in the assassination of DIG Vyas and had been declared an absconder by the Andhra Pradesh police. According to the CBI, Sohrabuddin and his wife Kausar Bi visited Saleema Begum in Hyderabad and were on their way back when they were picked up by the police.

The Original Statement

  • In her statement to the CBI, Saleema said that Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Kausar Bi had visited them in Hyderabad on her brother Nayeemuddin’s invitation. This, she said, was in mid-November 2005.
  • Saleema told the CBI that she would share further details of the couple’s Hyderabad visit after consulting her brother.
  • Saleema stated that after Sohrabuddin was killed, his relatives had contacted her.

The Retraction

In her statement before the Special CBI Judge on 4 January 2018, Saleema retracted her earlier statement.

  • Saleema said she had never been contacted by a CBI officer in connection with the Sohrabuddin encounter case.
  • She said that Sohrabuddin and Kausar Bi had never visited her in Hyderabad.
  • She claimed that Sohrabuddin’s family had never contacted her or her brother.

Also Read: After 9 Years, Former Gujarat Top Cop DG Vanzara Enters the State

Where Does The Case Stand Now?

Since 9 February, the Bombay High Court is hearing, on a day-to-day basis, the revision application moved by Sohrabuddin’s family against the discharge of senior officers by the CBI court. The senior officers include former Deputy Inspector General of Gujarat DG Vanzara, Rajasthan IPS officer Dinesh MN and Gujarat IPS officer Rajkumar Pandiyan – all three were earlier prime accused in the case.

Also Read: Sohrabuddin Case: Police Officers DG Vanzara, MN Dinesh Discharged

On 1 August 2017, the Special CBI court discharged Vanzara and Dinesh MN. On 25 August 2017, Pandiyan was discharged by the same court in the fake encounter case.