Friday, August 31, 2012

Best Bakery case: Bombay HC raps Gujarat cops’ probe

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 was “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 family—that of late Habibullah Khan, Zahira’s father who owned Best Bakery—in the Hanuman Tekri locality in Vadodara during the Gujarat riots.
    Around 8.30pm on March 1, 2002—two days after the Godhra incident—the 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 survivors—Taufel Siddiqiue, Raees Khan, Shehzad Khan Pathan and Shailun Pathan—all 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. TNN

Only 4 bakery workers stood by
statement to cops
The many flip flops of the Shaikh family which owned the Best Bakery resulted in the burden of the case falling on the four bakery workers who stood by their statements to the police. Zahira Shaikh, her mother Seherunissa, sister Saira, brothers Nafitullah and Nasibullah turned hostile in the trial court at Gujarat and Mumbai. Yasmeen, Zahira’s sister-in-law, who had supported the prosecution during the trial in Mumbai, went back on her statement and filed an application in the high court claiming that she had been “lured”.
Clean chit to Teesta in ‘tutor’ case
Fhigh or social court activist . The defence Teesta Setalvad team had it accused was a clean the activist chit from of the bringing Bombay the four witnesses to the Mumbai court and tutoring them. The high court however refused to believe that the four accused were tutored. “It cannot be forgotten that an application was filed by Zahira Shaikh resulting in a retrial in Mumbai,” said the court pointing out that Teesta had intervened in the plea. The court said that Teesta probably wanted to ensure that the four accused were produced before the court in Mumbai. “It cannot be said that the witnesses were tutored,’’ adding, “No other motive can be attributed to Teesta.”