The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Gujarat government to pay an 'interim ex gratia' of Rs 10 lakh to the family of slain alleged gangster Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife, even as the state government opposed any move to entrust investigations of the killings to the Special Investigation Team.
A bench of Justices Tarun Chatterjee and Aftab Alam, while directing the state to deposit the amount in the court within a week, said it would hear on September 2 the question as to whether the killings should be entrusted to the SIT, which is probing the post-Godhra 2002 communal riots.
Senior counsel Dushayant Dave, appearing for Rubabuddin, brother of Sohrabuddin, said the family was willing to accept the amount. At one stage, Justice Aftab Alam wanted to know whether the state was willing to enhance the 'ex gratia' from Rs 10 lakh.
"I don't think so. Your lordships may pass any order," senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi, appearing for the state, said. It was at this stage that Justice Chatterjee jokingly remarked that he was expecting the ex-gratia to be only in 'thousands'.
When Justice Alam repeated his question, Rohtagi stuck to his stand that the state was not willing to enhance the amount any further and if the court felt otherwise, it was free to pass any order. To a query from the bench, Rohtagi also said the state was not agreeable to the suggestion of entrusting the encounter probe to the SIT.
"We don't accept it. We have to be heard," the counsel said in response to a poser from the apex court on whether the state was willing to transfer the case to the SIT headed by former Central Bureau of Investigation director R K Raghavan.
The Gujarat police had initially claimed Sohrabuddin was a gangster involved in extortion and had nearly 54 cases registered against him in different states. It was claimed that he was killed in an encounter with the Anti-Terrorist Squad of the Gujarat police and the Rajasthan police.
After the killing, Sohrabuddin's younger brother Rubabuddin wrote a letter to the chief justice of India, alleging that the killings were stage managed.
The apex court treated the letter as a PIL and ordered a probe. Subsequent investigations by the Gujarat police established the fake encounter theory, resulting in half-a-dozen officers being arrested and suspended. Apart from Sohrabuddin's killing, it also came to light that the deceased's wife Kauser Bi had also been detained along with him and killed.
The whereabouts of Kauser Bi's body is still a mystery. Senior Gujarat police officers -- Deputy Inspector General D G Vanzara Raj, Superintendent of Police Kumar Pandiyan and Rajasthan Police officer Dinesh M N are among the main accused in the case and are presently in jail.