Sohrabuddin case: Vanzara says acquittal justifies him. Why did he drop the 2013 letter bomb then?
DG Vanzara, the former deputy inspector-general of Gujarat Police, may have been discharged by a special CBI court in the Sohrabuddin Shaikh encounter case; but far from leading to a closure, that has led to more questions.
The case of the alleged fake encounter of Shaikh and his associate Tulsiram Prajapati in 2005 has been one of the most controversial cases during Narendra Modi's chief ministership.
On Tuesday, the CBI court discharged Vanzara and MN Dinesh, an Indian Police Service officer from Rajasthan, in the case. In the same case, Amit Shah, the Bharatiya Janata Party national president, was granted similar relief in 2014.
Vanzara reportedly reacted to the discharge by saying that justice has been done. It was delayed but not denied. He further said the judgement vindicated his stand that the encounters were not fake.
Till now around 15 of the initially 38 accused have been discharged in the case. Over 20 others, including police officers, still face trial.
The very first thing that hits anyone who has been following the case is that if Vanzara was so sure of being innocent and had complete faith in the judiciary, why had he dropped a 'letter bomb' on 3 September 2013?
The letter had lashed out at the Modi government in Gujarat and also at Amit Shah who was the minister of state for home at the time the Sohrabuddin encounter was carried out.
The second question: why did the CBI not seek permission from the Gujarat government to prosecute the accused police officers in the case?
In the letter in which Vanzara had tendered his resignation from service while renouncing all the post retirement benefits, he had reportedly said: “I most respectfully would like to submit and state that I, along with my officers, stood beside this government like a bulwark whenever it faced an existential crisis in the past.”
Can he now specify what was that 'existential crisis'?
While hitting out at the then Modi government in the state for not standing beside the jailed police officers, Vanzara had written –
“With the passage of time, I realised that this government was not only not interested in protecting us but it also has been clandestinely making all efforts to keep me and my officers in the jail so as to save its own skin from CBI on one hand and gain political benefits on the other. It is everybody's knowledge that this government has been reaping very rich political dividends, since last 12 years, by keeping the glow of encounter cases alive in the sky of Gujarat, while otherwise, remaining in the low profile and indifferent to the fate of jailed police officers.”
Can he now tell us what was this 'glow of encounter cases' that needed to be kept alive?
The letter was particularly scathing on Amit Shah and held him responsible for the shifting of the trial in the case to Mumbai.
The letter said, “With all regards for Hon'ble Supreme Court of India, I sincerely believe and state that but for the legal and political intrigues, machinations and maneuverings of Shri Amitbhai Shah, the trial of Sohrabuddin encounter case, followed by that of Tulasiram encounter case, would not have gone out of the state of Gujarat.”
He had further stated that it was just to 'facilitate his trivial personal interest of fighting Assembly election of 2012' that Amit Shah got the trial transferred.
Vanzara had said that the officers of Crime Branch, ATS and Border Range, during the period of years between 2002 to 2007 that included a series of police encounters had 'simply acted and performed their duties in compliance with the conscious policy of this government'.
Can he now elaborate on the 'conscious policy' of the government?
Allegations & no explanations
Vanzara had gone on to say: “When Gujarat was burning under the inferno of Jehadi Terrorism, I used to get daily dozens of phone calls from the Biggies of Gandhinagar who probably saw a savior in me/my officers, but by the time I/my officers outlived my/their utility and were arrested by the CID/CBI under the very nose of this government, nobody bothered even to formally ask us as to how we were!”
Showing his belligerence he had pointed out that –
“As the government has miserably failed in protecting its encounter police, there remains no one-sided obligation on part of me to protect the traitors sitting in this government who almost have pushed patriotic and nationalist police officers into the Jaws of Death.”
Vanzara was also candid in saying that he had adored Modi like God. But at the same time he had pointed – “But, I am sorry to state that my God could not rise to the occasion under the evil influence of Shri Amitbhai Shah who usurped his eyes and ears and has been successfully misguiding him by converting goats into dogs and dogs into goats since last 12 years.”
Advocate Shamshad Pathan, who had represented the victims in the Sohrabuddin case in the past, has pointed out that, “The letter probably had been written by Vanzara out of sheer frustration that Amit Shah had been bailed out much earlier and the police officers continued to languish in the jail.”
Talking about the court discharging police officers, Pathan said that the CBI in this case never requested the Gujarat government to grant permission to prosecute the cops accused in the case which is believed to be mandatory under section 197 of the CrPC. Hence there was no question of granting sanction to criminally prosecute the police officers.
He said when the accused cops of senior ranks argued that the act of killing was committed as part of their official duty, a prosecution sanction is a must.
Pathan also pointed to the CBI not challenging the lower court’s order in the high court in the case of the other officials discharged before Vanzara and Dinesh. It is unlikely that it would do so in the case of Vanzara too.
The debate among the people on ground in Gujarat is – How come with the change in government at the Centre, the CBI’s role too has changed and the accused have been getting bails and are being discharged?
“It comes as a shock that the police officer who was denied bail by Supreme Court for seven years gets discharged for lack of evidence and lack of sanction to prosecute. The message that goes out is very wrong. It helps the BJP's politics wherein the fear is kept alive in the majority community that the minority community is targeted while being held responsible for that fear,” Pathan told Catch.
“Everyone remembers how Modi had asked the people at a rally before 2007 elections who was Sohrabuddin and the emphatic reply was 'a terrorist'. He had then asked what should be done to a terrorist and the replies from the jeering crowds was that he should be shot,” he added.
Pathan said that the worst part in the developments with regard to the discharge of so many people is that the victims have restrained their lawyers from opposing the discharge applications.
He believes that in this case the need to obtain prosecution sanction was not really needed because the 'criminal intent was obvious from the beginning'.
“The abduction and detention of the victims without following any procedure established that the act was not committed as part of official duty. How can the mysterious disappearance and killing of Kauserbi be defined as an act of a policeman’s official duty?” he questioned.
Ever since he came out on bail, Vanzara has donned the mantle of a politician and wants to start his political innings from the forthcoming Assembly polls. It remains to be seen if he joins a party, and in that case which party, or would he go solo.
Sohrabuddin case had played a role in the campaign for the 2007 polls. Will this be repeated ten years down the line?