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 HC raps Guj polices tardy probe

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PostSubject: HC raps Guj polices tardy probe   Tue Jul 10, 2012 11:15 am

HC raps Guj polices tardy probe

Shibu Thomas TNN

Mumbai: The Bombay high court,while delivering the verdict in the Best Bakery case on Monday,did not spare the tardy investigations by the Gujarat police.
After the Supreme Court order,the police should have reinvestigated the case, said the judges,adding,The police in their supreme overconfidence did not think it fit to carry out further investigations.This was a serious lapse on the part of the investigation team.Whoever was in charge of the investigations probably thought that Zahira Shaikh and others who had complained of coercion (in Gujarat) would not turn hostile.
Special public prosecutor Manjula Rao and additional public prosecutor Jayesh Yagnik said that they would wait for the reasoning of the HC judgment before deciding on an appeal.The defence team of senior advocate Adhik Shirodkar and advocates Vinayak Bichu,Mangesh Pawar and D S Jambaulikar were satisfied with the outcome and said they would consider filing an appeal.
Of the 21 accused initially charged with the murders and acquitted by a trial court in Gujarat,only 17 faced retrial in a special Mumbai court.In 2006,the special Mumbai court had convicted nine accused.
The prosecution case was that the accused were part of the mob of 1,200 that had set upon the only Muslim familythat of late Habibullah Khan,Zahiras father who owned Best Bakeryin the Hanuman Tekri locality in Vadodara during the Gujarat riots.
Around 8.30pm on March 1,2002two days after the Godhra incidentthe mob gathered outside the residential building and bakery and set it on fire.
Many died in the fire during the night.Those who survived till morning were made to get down from the terrace of the building,and were attacked with sticks and swords.Some succumbed to the injuries.There were three Hindu workers among the victims.
The high court observed that the four survivorsTaufel Siddiqiue,Raees Khan,Shehzad Khan Pathan and Shailun Pathanall originally from Uttar Pradesh,had given a graphic account of the incident.
The four injured eyewitnesses have identified the four accused as carrying swords,soda bottles and kerosene bottles and attacking them.These witnesses survived by the skin of their teeth and are lucky to escape from the clutches of death.The injuries on their bodies are a witness to the ordeal they have undergone and it is a miracle they survived, said the court.
However with regard to the five other accused Raju Baria,Shailesh Tadvi,Jagdish Rajput,Pankaj Gosavi and Suresh Vesava there was no corroboration.The statements of witnesses mention just their presence at the site of the attack,without attributing any specific role to them in the attacks, said the judges while acquitting them on the benefit of doubt.
For the four convicts there was some relief.The HC said their sentences would be concurrent with their life term-which means that there is a possibility that they could be released in a few years.
The court also ordered that the convicts be shifted to a prison in Gujarat to serve out the remainder of their sentences.The high court,which pronounced the operative part of the judgment,will continue dictating the remaining part of its verdict on Tuesday.

BEST BAKERY TIMELINE



Mar 1,2002:

Mob burns down Best Bakery killing 14 people,including 12 Muslims.21 people accused of the massacre

May 17,2003:

Main witness Zahira Sheikh turns hostile in Vadodara fast track court.Claims she cannot identity the accused

June 27:

Vadodara court acquits all 21.Four accused untraceable

July 11:

Zahira tells NHRC she was forced to turn hostile

Aug 7:

Gujarat govt challenges acquittal in Gujarat HC

Dec 26:

Gujarat HC dismisses appeal,the fast track courts verdict stands

March 12,2004:

SC admits Gujarat govts appeal against acquittal

April 12:

SC orders retrial outside Gujarat

Oct 4:

Trial begins in Mumbai court

Feb 25,2006:

9 of 17 awarded life imprisonment

July 9,2012:

5 of the 9 are acquitted by Bombay HC,life terms of 4 upheld
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