MUMBAI: A special CBI court on Friday acquitted all 22 accused of the 2005 alleged fake encounters of gangster Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kauser Bi. While 21 accused were junior-level police officials from Gujarat, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh, one was the owner of the farmhouse where Sheikh and his wife were held before the alleged murders.

The accused were additionally also acquitted on charges of being involved in the 2006 alleged staged encounter of Tulsiram Prajapati, Sheikh’s associate and a witness to his alleged abduction.

According to special CBI Judge S J Sharma, the prosecution failed to put forth any “documentary and substantive evidence” to suggest or establish the alleged conspiracy.

According to the CBI’s case, on November 23, 2005, Shaekh was allegedly abducted from a bus near Hyderabad while he was on his way to Sangli (Maharashtra) with his wife Kausar Bi. He was allegedly abducted by police personnel of ATS, Gujarat. The couple was then taken to Ahmedabad, and on November 26, 2005, Sohrabuddin was killed in a fake encounter by cops from the Gujarat and Rajasthan police. The CBI alleged that a few days later, Kausar Bi was killed and her body disposed of by burning it at a river bed near village Illol in Gujarat. Prajapati an alleged eyewitness and believed to be an associate of Sohrabuddin, was taken to Udaipur, Rajasthan. A year later, in December 2006, he too was killed in an alleged fake encounter near Chapri on the Gujarat-Rajasthan border, the CBI said.

The trial in the case commenced last December. Over the last year, 210 witnesses deposed, among whom 92 turned hostile.

The case was transferred to a city court in 2012 following a Supreme Court order in 2010. Over the years, of the 38 accused booked initially, 16 including BJP president Amit Shah were discharged in the case.

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