New Delhi: In a setback to the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Gujarat, the Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe the 2005 killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh by the state’s police.
Analysts say the apex court’s ruling could come as a blow to Modi’s pro-development image.
The state government has admitted that Sheikh and his wife had been falsely accused of plotting to assassinate Modi and were killed by the police.
But the state has been opposing a CBI probe saying its special investigation team (SIT) was conducting an impartial investigation.
A two-member bench of the Supreme Court, comprising justices Tarun Chatterjee and Aftab Alam, was hearing a plea by Sheikh’s brother Rubabuddin for a reinvestigation.
“If the probe ordered manages to prove anything against him or his regime, it could mean the futility of his party attempts to project Modi as a poster boy of development,” said Vivek Kumar, associate professor at the Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Sohrabuddin, his wife Kauserbi and another person, Tulsi Ram Prajapati, were in a bus to Maharashtra from Hyderabad when they were picked up by Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh police during a joint operation.
New twist: Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. The court’s order could come as a blow to Modi’s pro-development image, say analysts.
An earlier intervention by the apex court had forced the Gujarat government to order an investigation into the case in 2007. Deputy inspector general (DIG) Geeta Johri of Gujarat police, in a report, named top state police officers of carrying out the fake encounter. She was later removed from her post.
As many as 14 policemen including suspended DIG D.G. Banjara and R.K. Pandiyan are accused in the killing.
Reacting to the Supreme Court’s latest directive, the Gujarat government said it had nothing to hide in the case.
“We believe the state probe agencies (SIT) were capable of probing the matter but the court thought differently,” said Jayanarayan Vyas, a spokesman for the Gujarat government. The order would have no implication on the state, he added. Sheikh’s lawyer Ejaz Maqbool said the case would be handed over to CBI immediately.
(‘PTI’ contributed to this story)