Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Outside SC lens, a massacre trial wrecked by hostile witnesses

Parimal Dabhi : KIDIYAD, Sun Feb 26 2012, 01:52 hrs

The state highway cutting through greenery and leading to the village of Kidiyad in Sabarkantha district of central Gujarat lifts the mood, unless one allows in the memories of March 2, 2002, when nearly 75 Muslims fleeing their village in two mini trucks to Lunawada in the Panchmahals district were burnt alive and killed.
Leading the rioters at Limbadiya chowk in the Panchmahals was Kalu Maliwad, who was let off after witnesses turned hostile in the court. Maliwad went on to become an MLA from Lunawada on a BJP ticket in the Assembly polls held in December 2002. He was last seen organising Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s Sadbhavana mission fast in Godhra on January 20, 2012.
The former MLA has a reason to breathe easy. The case against him has come a full circle 10 years later. After the Godhra sessions court acquitted Maliwad and eight others in 2002, the state government filed an appeal in the High Court. The state police also extended the investigation on the basis of the statements of the witnesses and submitted three more chargesheets against 23 new accused in the massacre case which is not being probed by the Supreme Court-appointed SIT.
In the re-trial which started January last year, 26 of the 37 witnesses examined turned hostile. They denied that the police ever recorded their statements and absolved the accused. In the earlier trial, the prosecution was roundly criticised for ignoring the trend of witnesses turning hostile.
Public prosecutor in the case, Dushyant Pathak, pleads helplessness. “At present, we cannot do anything about this (witnesses turning hostile) except for declaring them hostile and contradict their statements (given before court and police),” he says.

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