Three-month extension for completing probe into Kausar Bi, Prajapati killings

The Supreme Court on Thursday granted the CBI three months' extension for completing the investigation into the larger conspiracy to kill Tulsiram Prajapati and Kausar Bi, wife of Sohrabuddin, after brushing aside the objections of senior counsel Ram Jethmalani, who lambasted the agency, charging it with “politicising” the Sohrabuddin fake encounter probe.

A Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and R.M. Lodha directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to complete investigation in three months and file a status report. The Bench expressed its displeasure at the “improper” insinuation made by Mr. Jethmalani, appearing for the former Gujarat Minister, Amit Shah, that Justice Tarun Chatterjee (since retired) had ordered the CBI probe into the case the day he was quizzed by the agency in the Ghaziabad Provident Fund scam.

“I don't care”

Justice Alam (who was part of the Bench along with Justice Chatterjee on January 12 when the CBI probe was ordered) told Mr. Jethmalani: “Your statement hurts us. It will hurt your reputation also,” to which Mr. Jethmalani said: “I have no reputation to lose. I don't care.”

Justice Lodha asked Mr. Jethmalani not to make allegations and criticise judges, saying “to accuse judges hearing this case cannot be accepted.”

Mr. Jethmalani urged the court not to entertain the CBI's status report until Mr. Shah was heard in the matter. He asserted that until Mr. Shah was arrested there was no material against him. However, the CBI Director was persuaded to arrest Mr. Shah stating that only if he was arrested would the other accused come forward to give evidence against him.

Mr. Jethmalani alleged that there was evidence of a “conspiracy,” hatched at the highest level in the country, to “demolish” Mr. Shah and Chief Minister Narendra Modi. He said he would apply for recall/modification of the January 12 order and until that was done the court should not give the CBI more time to complete the investigation.

Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati ridiculed Mr. Jethmalani's submissions, pointing out that the investigation was carried out by the CBI on the orders of the court. Rejecting as baseless the charge of political conspiracy at the highest level, the Attorney-General said he was distressed to hear such a statement.

Counsel argued that once a charge sheet was filed on completion of the investigation and a memo filed by the CBI in court on July 23 that the investigation had been completed, there was no need for further investigation. He referred to Mr. Shah's interrogation while in judicial custody and later in CBI custody, claiming yet no evidence was found against him. He cited a three-judge Bench decision to question continued monitoring of the investigation by the Supreme Court, saying this was the trial court's job.

Senior counsel Dushyant Dave, appearing for petitioner Rubabuddin, brother of Sohrabuddin, took strong exception to this: “For the last four weeks they were making these charges against the judges outside the court, now they have started making these allegations even inside the court. Such things cannot be tolerated and court should not allow this to happen.”

Judge's threat

With both Mr. Jethmalani and Mr. Dave shouting at each other at the top of their voices, Justice Lodha threatened: “If this continues, we may have to stop the hearing and go back to our chambers.”

Solicitor-General Gopal Subramaniam, assisting the court as amicus curiae, clarified the legal position that until the mandate given to the CBI was completed, the court could monitor the investigation. As investigation of the killing of Prajapati and Kausar Bi was yet to be completed, the CBI should be allowed to complete the probe.