The Central Bureau of Investigation, which is probing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh-Kausar Bi murder case, has charged the former Gujarat Minister of State for Home, Amit Shah — who is being held in the Sabarmati Central Jail as a prime accused — with breaking jail manuals and holding political meetings from behind bars.
Mr. Shah's frequent trips to the government civil hospital from the jail had raised suspicions about his possible political dealings from behind bars. It was alleged that during his visits to the hospital for “treatment,” Mr. Shah attempted to influence the selection of Bharatiya Janata Party candidates for elections to the Ahmedabad municipal corporation to accommodate some of his supporters.
Mr. Shah, who represented the Sarkhej constituency in Ahmedabad in the State Assembly, was admitted at least four times since his arrest on July 25 for treatment of chest congestion, boils, blood pressure and other complications.
However, the CBI's supplementary charge sheet filed in the special CBI court on Friday made no mention of his visits to hospital, and charged Mr. Shah with violating jail manuals and with meeting political friends and relatives while sitting in the jail superintendent's office.
The supplementary charge sheet particularly mentioned an incident on October 6 when CBI sleuths, headed by Deputy Police Superintendent D.S. Dagar, visited the jail and found Mr. Shah “chit-chatting” with some of his politician friends in the presence of his son in the jail superintendent's office.
The CBI on October 13 wrote a letter to the State Additional DGP (Prisons) requesting him to ensure that the jail manuals were not allowed to be violated by Mr. Shah in future.
Mr. Dagar's complaint against Mr. Shah's conversations in the jail superintendent's office and the CBI's letter of complaint to the ADGP (Prisons) have formed part of the supplementary charge sheet. They reassert that Mr. Shah and another prime accused — former Ahmedabad Joint Commissioner of Police Abhay Chudasma — were misusing their powers to influence key witnesses in the case and tamper with evidence.
The retraction of earlier statements made by key witnesses like Sohrabuddin's younger brother Nayeemuddin, and Noor Mohammad Ghoghari and Azam Khan, both one-time close associates of Sohrabuddin, have been listed by the CBI as examples of the Shah-Chudasma duo's efforts to influence the witnesses.
In all three cases, the witnesses gave statements before the CBI revealing Mr.Shah's and Mr. Chudasma's links with Sohrabuddin, but later retracted their statements claiming that they were taken by the CBI under duress.
Incidentally, Mr. Shah had filed a petition in the special CBI court on October 18 accusing the CBI of spreading canards against him and implicating him in false cases like the violation of jail manuals.
Claiming that he never violated the jail manuals ever since he was arrested, Mr. Shah alleged that the CBI was deliberately feeding the media false news only to influence the outcome of his application for bail, which is pending before the Gujarat High Court.
The hearing on his complaint against the CBI was also pending in the special CBI court.
The CBI has named two police inspectors of the Ahmedabad crime branch who allegedly “abducted” witness Azam Khan just before he filed an affidavit in the special CBI court on September 23 retracting his earlier statements, in which he had linked the Sohrabuddin encounter with the murder of another former Minister of State for Home, Haren Pandya.
The CBI supplementary charge sheet pointed out that Khan — who had traveled by bus from Udaipur to Ahmedabad in connection with the court hearing in the Popular Builder firing case, in which he was an accused — was abducted at the Ahmedabad bus terminus and was “confined” to a hotel for a couple of days.
The supplementary charge sheet appended the statements of the hotel staff as well as the notary and the advocate who helped Khan file the affidavit to retract his earlier statement. The two police inspectors named for the alleged abduction of Khan are known to be close to Mr. Chudasma.