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Court raps absent Shah

Mumbai, June 20: Amit Shah got a rap on the knuckles from a CBI court judge here today.

Narendra Modi’s confidant, an accused in the Tulsi Prajapati fake encounter case, was reprimanded for failing to turn up for the second consecutive time at the court of special judge J.T. Utpat.

The court had issued summons to Shah and 18 others on May 9 after the case was transferred from Ahmedabad to Mumbai this year.

Prajapati, a key witness in the alleged fake encounter killing of fellow gangster Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kausarbi by Gujarat police in 2005, was found murdered in December 2006.

Shah, a BJP general secretary who was then Gujarat home minister, is accused of being part of the conspiracy in both the fake encounter killings. He was in Mumbai till last week, meeting party leaders and other state politicians in preparation for the Maharashtra Assembly polls, due in a few months.

Party sources say Shah is expected to win the state for the BJP just as he had delivered Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha elections.

Today’s was the third hearing in the case since Judge Utpat issued the May 9 summons.

Shah was not present in the court on the day of the first hearing, May 23. Some other accused were absent too, as was the designated judge — he was on leave.

Shah skipped the second hearing, on June 6, too. That day, his counsel sought an exemption for his client from having to make a personal appearance.

Today, when Shah’s counsel Robin Mogero made another exemption plea, the CBI prosecutor opposed him.

“Every time you are giving an exemption application without assigning any reason,” an annoyed judge Utpat said. He later allowed the plea and fixed the next hearing on July 4.

On June 25, the court is slated to give its judgement on Shah’s discharge plea in the Prajapati case.

“A discharge plea is a plea made by an accused in a criminal case by which he requests the court that he be let off as there might be no prima facie evidence against him,” top lawyer Majid Memon said.

The CBI, which investigated the case and collected evidence, replaced its prosecutor in the case, Ejaz Khan, on May 30. Khan was relieved after his promotion and replaced by senior public prosecutor P.V. Raju.

Last September, the CBI had filed a chargesheet in the case against Shah and 18 others, including several officers of the Gujarat police’s anti-terrorism squad.