Bombay HC grants bail to ex-Gujarat DIG Vanzara

Written By Unknown on Jumat, 12 September 2014 | 22.23

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Thursday granted bail to former Gujarat deputy inspector general of police, DG Vanzara in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case. The HC observed that Vanzara did play a 'greater role' in the conspiracy and was there "at every stage'' but granted the bail on parity.

The bail comes with stringent conditions of not leaving Mumbai and is on a Rs 2 lakh bond and one surety of like amount.

Sheikh and his wife were allegedly abducted by Gujarat's Anti-Terrorist Squad from Hyderabad and killed in suspected fake encounters near Gandhinagar in November 2005.

Vanzara's bail was granted by Justice Abhay Thipsay of the high court on grounds of parity.

Kausarbi who had accompanied Sohrabuddin was also killed by the police. Tulshiram Prajapati who was initially with Sohrabuddin and Kausarbi, was not brought to Ahmedabad, but was taken to Rajasthan and killed much later. Advocate H S Venegavkar, counsel for the CBI opposed the bail plea argued that there was a strong prima facie case against Vanzara as his was a bigger, more serious role than that played by other police officers who have been released.

The role attributed to Vanzara by the CBI is quite serious and prominent, the HC observed. According to the Investigating Agency, he was involved in the conspiracy to commit the murder of Sohrabuddin from the very inception.

"It was alleged that a false firing incident was staged to show the criminal background of Sohrabuddin in the hope that it would thereby be possible to catch hold of Sohrabuddin by showing him as 'wanted' in that matter. It is also alleged that Vanzara was present at the place where Sohrabuddin was killed and it was he who arranged to cremate and dispose of the dead body of Kausarbi."

Justice Thipsay said, "There is sufficient material in the charge-sheet to support these allegations, and therefore, there exists a prima facie case of serious offences against the applicant (Vanzara)."

"The case relates to the killing of three persons by police officers at the instance of political leaders. It is also evident that the killing of Sohrabuddin was pre-planned, and it was also pre-planned to show that it was an encounter. The offences in question, therefore, are of heinous nature, and ordinarily there would be no question of releasing a person who is accused of having committed such an offence, when there would be a prima facie case against him," Justice Thipsay said in the bail order.

However, observing that the bail plea was canvassed on grounds of parity and on the ground that Vanzara has been in custody for over seven years with the trial yet to even begin. The SC had released in March this year, two other accused Rajkumar pandian and B R Chaubey.

Justice Thipsay said he went through the SC order of bail carefully. "Their Lordships, after having noticed the rival contentions and after highlighting the law relating to grant of bail in non-bailable offences, inter alia, took a note of the fact that the applicants before the Supreme Court were in custody for a period of about 7 years, pending trial. Their Lordships also observed that the Investigating Agency was not responsible for the delay,'' the HC said.

The SC then released three other accused — Abhaysinh Chudasama, M N Dinesh and Mukeshbhai Parmar on bail by an order in April.

The HC noted that the sessions court did not release Vanzara on bail in spite of being made aware of the SC order releasing Pandian and Cahubey. The sessions judge had observed that his case stood on a higher footing and that the trial was expected to start soon. The HC said that the observations about Vanzara's "greater role" are proper and that he "appears to be involved in the abduction of Sohrabuddin and Kausarbi. He also appears to have destroyed the dead body of Kausarbi by setting it on fire. It also appears that while posted as DIG, Border Range, Gujarat, he got Tulshiram Prajapati killed, and projected the death as having been taken place in an encounter with the police. He appears to have created a background for booking Sohrabuddin in a case of extortion, and for that purpose, appears to have forced Raman Patel and Dashrath Patel to make a false report against Sohrabuddin. It also appears that he had threatened the Patel Brothers, and demanded an amount of Rs 1 crore from them, and that, huge amount was actually extorted by him from Patel Brothers."

But the real question that the HC said it had to answer was whether Vanzara ought to be released on bail too given the bail granted to others by the SC? It answered this question in the affirmative.

"The reason for releasing Rajkumar Pandian and Choubey on bail does not appear to be that the Supreme Court thought there was no prima facie case of the alleged offences against them," said Justice Thipsay observing that the SC had also kept the seven year custody and delayed trial in mind. Besides, he observed, "There is no basic difference between the role played by Vanzara and by the said two accused."

Advocate Harshad Ponda appearing for Vanzara had also argued that the prosecution case was that Amit Shah, the then home minister of Gujarat is the main accused and Kingpin, and the police officers including Vanzara were acting at his instance. Since Shah is on bail, Vanzara should be too, he had argued but the HC judge did not accept this argument.

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