Mumbai: Hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case, a special CBI court on Friday acquitted all the 22 accused while observing that all the witnesses and proofs were not satisfactory to prove conspiracy and murder. The court observed that there wasn’t enough circumstantial evidence to prove fake encounter killings of Sheikh, his wife Kausar Bi and associate Tulsi Prajapati.

Special CBI Judge SJ Sharma also rejected the re-examination plea of two witnesses. He said, “The government machinery and prosecution put in a lot of effort, 210 witnesses were brought but satisfactory evidence didn’t come and witnesses turned hostile. It is no fault of the prosecutor if witnesses don’t speak.”

Judge Sharma said that he is “helpless” as the witnesses in the case have turned hostile and the prosecution has failed to produce satisfactory evidence.

The court said that the allegation that Prajapati was murdered through a conspiracy was also not true. Of the accused, 21 were junior-level police officials from Gujarat and Rajasthan. The other was the owner of a farmhouse in Gujarat where Shaikh and Kausar Bi were illegally detained before they were allegedly killed.

The CBI had alleged that Shaikh, an alleged gangster, Kausar Bi and Prajapati were abducted by the Gujarat police from a bus when they were going to Sangli in Maharashtra from Hyderabad on the intervening night of November 22 and 23, 2005. Shaikh was killed in an alleged fake encounter on November 26, 2005 near Ahmedabad, while his wife was killed three days later, the CBI had said.

It said that a year later, on December 27, 2006, Prajapati was also shot dead by the Gujarat and Rajasthan police in an alleged fake encounter near Chapri on the Gujarat-Rajasthan border.

The case has attracted attention as BJP chief Amit Shah, who was then Minister for Home in Gujarat, was one of the accused before being discharged in 2014. Others discharged include former DIG in Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) DG Vanzara, and Gulab Chand Kataria, then Home Minister of Rajasthan and Gujarat Police chief PC Pande.

During the trial, as many as 92 prosecution witnesses turned hostile.

The Sohrabuddin killing case, which had generated much political heat, was transferred to the CBI in 2010. The Special CBI court, which has examined 210 witnesses during the trial, had on December 5 reserved its order in the sensitive case.