A senior Rajasthan Police officer’s deposition was recorded in the alleged fake encounter of Tulsiram Prajapati on Thursday. The prosecution, however, did not confront the officer with a contradictory statement he had given before a magistrate earlier. The officer was also not declared hostile by the prosecution. On Thursday, the senior officer, who had been previously summoned over four times, appeared before court as prosecution number 159. The officer, in 2005, was the deputy superintendent (west circle) in Udaipur. He told the court that in November-end, he got information from his reliable informer that Prajapati, a wanted accused in the Hamid Lala murder case of 2004, was living in Rajasthan’s Bhilwara under the false name of Sameer.
“I told my senior officials about this and constituted a team of around eight to nine policemen and we left for Bhilwara,” the officer told the court. The officer then narrated the sequence of events leading up to the arrest of Prajapati and their return to Udaipur. He then told the court that thereafter, he had gone to Jaipur for training. The officer did not give an exact date of the arrest claiming it was during the “last days of November”.
During the investigation in the case, multiple statements of the officer were recorded over the years, including those by the Gujarat CID and the CBI. While two CBI statements recorded in 2010 and 2011 are both contradicting each other, a statement of the officer was also recorded under section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code on July 5, 2011, which has a higher evidentiary value as it is recorded by a magistrate.
As per this statement, the witness told the court that on November 26, 2005, Abdul Rehman, an accused in the case and the then Rajasthan police inspector, had called him in the morning and told him that he, along with Udaipur Superintendent, Dinesh M N, and others have come to Ahmedabad and that Sohrabuddin Shaikh was killed in an encounter. He had claimed that he was told about Sohrabuddin’s associate Prajapati living in Bhilwara and was asked to arrest him. In the statement, the officer had also told the court that after he and his team arrested Prajapati and returned to Udaipur on November 26, 2005, they were told by Dinesh M N to show the arrest “2-3 days later”. Dinesh M N was discharged from the case in 2017 for lack of evidence. His discharge is under challenge before the Bombay High Court.
On Thursday, while the witness did not mention a date of the arrest, when later confronted with police station diary entries by the defence advocates, the officer confirmed that the date was November 29, 2005. So far, three other officers who were part
of the police team that arrested Prajapati have told the court that the arrest took place on November 29 and not 26, as claimed by the CBI. All three of them during their depositions in April and May this year, told the court that the CBI had threatened them into giving a false statement before the magistrate. Two of the three officers were declared hostile and confronted with their statements as well.
On Thursday, special public prosecutor B P Raju made a request before the court. “Your honour may reject my prayer. But, I may be please permitted to show the witness the statement recorded under section 164,” Raju told the court. Special Judge S J Sharma asked him under what provisions was he making such a submission. “You can show him the statement only if there is a contradiction,” the judge said. Raju then said he did not want to proceed further. When asked about it later, Raju said the statement was in a sealed condition before the court and hence it was not opened.
The statement’s copy, however, is part of the chargesheet given to the accused as document number 262. In the absence of the magistrate’s statement being brought before the court, the accused cross-examined the witness police officer, on two other statements where the date of arrest of Prajapati is mentioned as November 29, favouring them.
The witness also deposed on the events of December 2006, when he had written letters to three other officials on the escape of Prajapati from custody. Another witness, also a police officer, deposed about correspondence received by him from the National Human Rights Commission on a letter written by Prajapati while he was lodged in Udaipur central jail.
The witness identified the forwarding letter endorsed by him to send the NHRC notice to Hathipole police station in Udaipur, but failed to identify the notice itself as it did not have his endorsement.