Four Gujarat policemen have been arrested and suspended for negligence, which allowed Sylvester Daniel, a key witness in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, to escape. The policemen include two constables, one Sub-Inspector and a Commando.
Police sources say that the exemplary punishment handed out to the policemen should make clear that the escape was one of negligence on the part of the policemen. The sources added that they hoped this would put to rest speculation that the Gujarat Police had allowed Sylvester to escape.
Sylvester was soon caught again after he escaped from the Gujarat Police's custody near Udaipur in Rajasthan.
An accomplice of Sohrabuddin, Sylvester, had fled on Friday night while being brought back from a court appearance in Udaipur by a police party from Vadodara. The incident occurred when the cops were reportedly having a snack. He was lodged in Vadodara Jail.
"We didn't have any idea about him running away. Incidents are bound to take place in police work. If we have any information about the occurrence of any incident, we will go and suppress the matter there and then," said Chitrajan Singh, DGP, Gujarat.
Sylvester was spotted by a police team in Udaipur's Bhupalpura area. A loaded revolver was recovered from his possession.
Sylvester Daniel allegedly belonged to the same extortionist gang as Sohrabuddin and Tulsiram Prajapati and the CBI believes he knows important facts about the Soharabbudin encounter on November 26, 2005 on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, and the subsequent death of his wife Kausar Bi a few days later.
The cops contended that Sylvester escaped while they were getting the jeep, in which they were travelling, repaired. This version was not bought by many including the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which suspects collusion of the escorting police party in facilitating Sylvester's escape. The agency had, in fact, sought a report from the Vadodara Police on the matter.
In response, the Vadodara Police, firmly in the dock, had written to the CBI admitting to "strong suspicion that the escorting cops helped Sylvester escape." The letter also said that there is a "discrepancy in statements by escorting policemen and the Rajasthan Police's investigation", further adding that the "Rajasthan Police is free to take action against those cops".
The Vadodara Police had sent a team for enquiry.
After Sohrabuddin's death in 2005, the Gujarat Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) had said that the former was a terrorist who planned to assassinate Chief Minister Narendra Modi. In 2007, the state government admitted in court that Sohrabuddin and Kauser Bi had been wrongly killed. Some of the state's senior-most policemen are in jail, charged with murder, criminal conspiracy, and kidnapping. (Read: Who was Sohrabuddin Sheikh?
Sylvester had, in a statement to the CBI last year, claimed that in 2004, Sohrabuddin had told him that Popular Builders in Vadodara had to be fired upon at the behest of Abhay Chudasama, a senior Gujarat IPS officer, now in jail for the fake encounter of Sohrabuddin.