Sohrabuddin’s kin awarded Rs. 1 mn as ex-gratia


New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday asked the Gujarat government to pay Rs.1 million in ex-gratia to the mother and three brothers of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, who was wrongly branded a terrorist and killed by police in a staged shootout in 2005.

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A bench of Justice Tarun Chatterjee and Justice Aftab Alam also deferred to Sep 2 the issue of transferring the case for further investigation to a special probe panel headed by former Central Bureau of Investigation director R.K. Raghavan.

The bench ordered the payment of the monetary relief to the slain man’s family members within a week, accepting the offer of Rs.1 million made by senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi on behalf of the Gujarat government.

The state government had already accepted the criminal liability of some of its police officials in carrying out the killing of the Ujjain man and also his wife Kausar Bi in Ahmedabad in November 2005.

The court order came on a lawsuit by Sohrabuddin Sheikh’s terminally ill brother Rubabuddin Sheikh, who has sought a CBI probe into the killings of his brother and sister-in-law.

Though the compensation offer was promptly accepted by Rubabuddin Sheikh’s counsel Dushyant Dave, Justice Aftab Alam wanted the government to hike the compensation.

“We accept it,” said Dave, the moment Rohtagi disclosed the government’s offer of Rs.1 million as an “interim ex-gratia”.

“We accept it as we are quite desperate,” said the lawyer, who had earlier told the court that Rubabuddin Sheikh was terminally ill with a “stage III cancer.”

Justice Chatterjee too agreed with the offer, ignoring Justice Alam’s reservation over the sum and said, “I was thinking only in terms of thousands.”

Dave also sought to raise a demand of compensation for Sohrabuddin Sheikh’s friend Tulsiram Prajapati, who too had allegedly been shot dead by the Gujarat police team in another staged gun battle.

But the plea did not evoke any response from the bench, while the state government too asserted that it does admit the allegations that Prajapati’s killing was extra-judicial.

The bench deferred the issue of transferring the case to the special probe panel after Rohtagi asserted that the state government was not amenable to transfer the probe and said he would like to argue on the legal issues involved.

Sohrabuddin Sheikh, Kausar Bi and Prajapati were killed after their alleged abduction by the Gujarat police.

Then deputy inspector general D.G. Vanzara had announced Sohrabuddin Sheikh’s killing in a police shootout, dubbing him a Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist on a mission to assassinate Chief Minister Narendra Modi and other prominent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders.

However, the state government admitted the killings were staged. In a subsequent probe, police have arrested Vanzara and three other senior police officers, who are still behind the bars.

The killings had become a major issue of debate between Modi and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in the run-up to the state assembly elections in December 2007.