Present BJP president Amit Shah and IPS officers Dinesh MN, Rajkumar Pandiyan and DG Vanzara were the principal conspirators in the alleged fake encounter of Tulsiram Prajapati in Gujarat in 2006, the chief investigating officer of the case Sandeep Tamgadge told a special court on Wednesday, Nov 21.
Prajapati, the sole witness in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh alleged fake encounter case of November 2005, was in police custody. He was shot dead in an alleged fake encounter in December 2006. The police claimed, he tried to escape while being taken back to Udaipur jail after a court hearing in Ahmedabad.
Senior IPS officer Sandeep Tamgadge, who investigated and supervised the case from April 2012, had filed a supplementary chargesheet in the Sohrabuddin Shaikh case and the main chargesheet in Prajapati case.
The CBI’s claim is that Shaikh and Prajapati ran an extortion racket in connivance with the police and politicians. When Shaikh decided to go against his alleged masters, a conspiracy to eliminate him was hatched on November 23, 2005.
Tamgadge said that there was a “politician-criminal” nexus and that and Prajapati, his associate Sohrabuddin Shaikh and Sohrabuddin’s wife Kausar Bi were killed as the behest of this nexus, reported The Wire. He named Amit Shah and Rajasthan Home Minister Gulabchand Kataria as the politicians who had used criminals – Sohrabuddin Shaikh, Tulsiram and Azam Khan – to fire at the office of Ahmedabad-based Popular Builders in 2004.
Shah, Kataria, Dinesh MN, Pandiyan and Vanzara – who were all named as accused in the case – were discharged by the trial court between 2014 and 2017 for lack of evidence. Currently, those facing trial include 21 lower-rung police officers and the owner of a farmhouse where Sheikh and his wife Kausarbi were allegedly confined after being kidnapped from a bus on November 23, 2005.
Tamgadge told the court that he had collected the call detail records of Shah, Vanzara, former Gujarat IPS officer Vipul Agrawal, former Andhra Pradesh police officer Srinivasa Rao and Police Sub-Inspector (Gujarat) Ashish Pandya, The Hindu reported. These call records prove a larger conspiracy, he claimed.
Tamgadge said he had recorded statements of Shah, Kataria and others, but their statements were not filed in the chargesheet. Defence lawyer Abdul Wahab Khan filed a petition seeking to bring the statements recorded by the CBI. The plea will be heard on Thursday.
On Monday, the former chief investigating officer Amitabh Thakur of the Sohrabuddin Sheikh alleged fake encounter case said that Shah and four senior police officers had benefitted politically and monetarily from the case. Thakur, however, said he had no material evidence to “show the persons who were political beneficiaries”.
Tamgadge’s statement comes at a time when one witness after another in the case has been turning hostile. Although his predecessor Amitabh Thakur, did not turn hostile, he failed to reiterate the evidence from his investigation when he took the witness stand, The Wire report said. On November 19, Thakur told the court that the CBI did not have evidence to prove that Shah and senior IPS officers received “monetary and political benefits” from these alleged fake encounters. In addition, Thakur even claimed that the CBI did not have any motive to show for the 22 people presently facing trial.
As pointed out above, Shah, Kataria and several top IPS officers including Vanzara, Pandiyan and Dinesh have already been discharged from the case and only 22 men – 21 low-rung policemen and the owner of the guest house where Kausar Bi was allegedly kept before she was killed – are currently facing trial, though 35 people had been accused of the crime at the start.
While Shah was first named as an accused in Thakur’s investigation, it was Tamgadge who questioned and eventually arrested him. Shah, however, was discharged from the case by a special CBI judge, MB Gosavi, on December 30, 2014. Curiously, the CBI did not appeal against his discharge.
About Sandeep Tamgadge:
Tamgadge, a police officer from the Nagaland cadre, was the 210th witness in the case. At present, he is posted in Kohima as deputy inspector general of police.
Tamgadge also supervised the investigation into the killing of Ishrat Jahan. Under his supervision, the agency had filed two chargesheets in this case arraigning a slew of senior Gujarat police officers who were considered close to then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and home minister Shah.
In 2014, just a few weeks before Modi was sworn in as the prime minister, Tamgadge was removed as supervising officer from several encounter cases in Gujarat. He was eventually repatriated to his home cadre, Nagaland.
In 2015, his security cover was withdrawn and an attempt made by the CBI to prosecute him in two cases that critics said were trumped-up – one of dereliction of duty and another of falsely implicating the subject of an anti-corruption investigation.