Mumbai, Mar 26 (PTI) Two more witnesses were today declared hostile in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh alleged fake encounter case, taking the number of such witnesses in the case to 44.

The witnesses, Nikunj Dalvadi and Kiran Panchal, examined by the CBI before special judge S J Sharma today did not support the statements they had recorded earlier.

So far, 62 witnesses have been examined, of whom 44 have been declared hostile by the CBI, the prosecuting agency.

The statements of Dalvadi and Pachal were recorded as ‘panch’ witnesses for recovering empty cartridges from the policemen after the encounter.

The panch witnesses are those before whom police initiate an investigation, like sealing of an article from the crime scene.

However, in the court, the duo did not stand by their statements and said that the police had asked them to sign on blank papers.

Meanwhile, another witness E Radhakrishnaiah, a Gujarat cadre IPS officer, was also examined.

He said that discharged accused Rajkumar Pandiyan had visited him in Hyderabad in November 2005 and had requested him to arrange a guest room.

The court had, in October last year, framed charges against 22 accused for murder, abduction and destruction of evidence under the Indian Penal Code and for offences under the Arms Act in connection with the alleged staged encounter of Sheikh near Gandhinagar on November 26, 2005. All the accused had pleaded innocence.

BJP president Amit Shah, Rajasthan Home Minister Gulabchand Kataria, Rajasthan-based businessman Vimal Patni, former Gujarat police chief P C Pande, Additional Director General of Police (Gujarat) Geeta Johri and Gujarat police officers Abhay Chudasama and N K Amin have been discharged from the case.

Besides them, Yashpal Chudasama and Ajay Patel (both senior officials of Ahmedabad District Co-operative Bank), Gujarat IPS officer Rajkumar Pandiyan and Andhra Pradesh-cadre IPS official N Balasubramanyam, Rajasthan IPS officer Dinesh M N and former senior Gujarat police officer D G Vanzara have also been discharged.

Sheikh and his wife Kausar Bi were allegedly abducted by the Gujarat police’s Anti-Terrorism Squad from Hyderabad on their way to Sangli in Maharashtra in November 2005. According to the prosecution, Sheikh was allegedly killed in a fake encounter.

Kausar Bi was also allegedly killed later.

Tulsi Prajapati, an aide of Sheikh and who was said to be a witness to the encounter, was allegedly killed by police at Chapri village in Gujarat’s Banaskantha district in December 2006.

The fake encounter case was transferred to Mumbai in September 2012 on the request of the CBI for ensuring a fair trial.

In 2013, the Supreme Court clubbed the Sheikh and Prajapati encounter cases.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.