Friday, August 31, 2012

Compensation for Best Bakery witnesses hiked to . 3 lakh

Bombay HC Bats For Witness Protection Programme In Verdict 

We hope the Habibullah family will go back to Hanuman Tekri and set up the Best Bakery again and both the communities will live together peacefully,” observed the Bombay high court on Tuesday, while concluding the judgment in the Best Bakery case. The court expressed hope that the atmosphere of fear would be a thing of the past. Habibullah was key witness Zahira Shiekh’s father, who was among the 14 people killed at the bakery massacre in Vadodara by a mob on March 1, 2002 during the post-Godhra riots.
    A division bench Justice V M Kanade and Justice P D Kode invoked Mahatma Gandhi and pushed for a witness protection programme. The bench also ordered the Gujarat government to pay Rs 3 lakh each to five of the injured witnesses in the case.
    The bench had some words of sympathy for Zahira and her family, who had turned hostile in court twice. “The Habibullah family suffered a terrible ordeal and the police should have given them proper protection. They were probably scared for their lives,” said the judges, adding that this fear could be the reason behind the family turning hostile. “India has witnessed communal tensions since 1947. At that time we had a leader like Mahatma Gandhi who had a command over both the communities. Unfortunately, today we have no such leaders,” said the judges, expressing hope that the verdict had “doused the fires on both sides”.
    The court said that the government should have a comprehensive witness protection programme, especially in sensitive cases, where eyewitnesses are rehabilitated in another state, given new identities and jobs, so that they can give evidence without fear. The court had on Monday upheld the life imprisonment awarded to four accused in the case and acquitted five others. It said the compensation of Rs 2,500 awarded to the injured witnesses was “inadequate” and directed the Gujarat government to shell the additional amount for Taufel Siddiqiue, Raees Khan, Shehzad Khan Pathan and Shailun Pathan who were the only ones to support the prosecution’s case.
    Compensation would also be paid to Yasmeen Sheikh, Zahira’s sister-in-law, who had supported the prosecution in the Mumbai trial court, but subsequently filed a plea in the high court that she was “lured and misguided”. The high court dismissed Yasmeen’s plea saying she was not “trustworthy”. The court also expunged the remarks made against the defence team in the trial court’s judgment.