HC Legal Department: Death in Custody in Vadodara: Special Prosecutor will be appointed within a week”

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A Special Prosecutor (SPP) will be appointed by the Legal Department in the case of the alleged death in custody of Babu Nisar Sheikh, a migrant worker in Vadodara, who was arrested by police in December 2019 and has since “disappeared”.

The state government’s legal department told the Gujarat High Court on February 15 that the attorney general would be appointed within seven working days. The submission was made during the hearing of a motion for contempt brought by Babu Nisar’s son, Salim Sheikh, for failure to comply with an order of December 8, 2020, where the HC had seen fit to ask the government of the state to provide a special prosecutor “as soon as possible”.

More than two years after he was arrested by Fatehgunj police in Vadodara on suspicion of theft, Nisar’s body has still not been found. He is suspected of having been tortured to death at Fatehgunj police station. Eight police officers were named as accused in the indictment following Nisar’s disappearance.

During the hearing of the contempt motion, taken up by the divisional bench of Chief Justice Aravind Kumar and Justice AJ Shastri, the state government argued that the former special prosecutor, who “just Bharuch”, would be replaced by an SPP “from Vadodara”.

Earlier, The Indian Express reported that the state legal department in a circular dated December 7 removed Shailendrasinh Gharaviya, the named SPP in the case, “with immediate effect”. He had also asked the litigant from the Vadodara district government to continue the trial.

Following presentation by Assistant Government Advocate (AGP), DM Devnani, on behalf of the Legal Department, the Division Bench disposed of the contempt motion. However, the bench observed, “…we had asked the AGP to determine the stage at which the appointment of a special prosecutor is…Even interpreting the observation made (in the December 2020 order ) as a direction, it would leave there no doubt in the mind of this court that the order is being complied with instead of the declaration made by the PMA, and therefore the contempt proceeding is dropped.

The December 8, 2020 order came in connection with a habeas corpus petition brought by Salim in June 2020, months after his father disappeared in December 2019. During the hearing of the habeas corpus petition , the CID, which investigated the crime, had, in a sealed report submitted to the judiciary on December 1, 2020, that Nisar “has expired and his body has not yet been found”.

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