Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Tuesday, Apr 13, 2004

About Us
Contact Us
Front Page
News: Front Page | National | Tamil Nadu | Andhra Pradesh | Karnataka | Kerala | New Delhi | Other States | International | Opinion | Business | Sport | Miscellaneous |
Classifieds | Employment |

Front Page Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

Supreme Court orders re-trial in Best Bakery case

By J. Venkatesan

NEW DELHI, APRIL 12. In a severe indictment of the Bharatiya Janata Party Government headed by Narendra Modi Government in Gujarat, the Supreme Court today ordered a fresh investigation and re-trial in the Best Bakery case in which all the 21 accused were acquitted by the High Court.

Criticising the State Government for its tardy investigation resulting in miscarriage of justice to the victims, the Court also ordered the shifting of the case — pertaining to one of the post-Godhra incidents in which 14 persons were burnt alive, nine of them belonging to the family of the key witness, Zaheera Sheikh — for trial in Maharashtra.

A Bench, consisting of Justice Doraiswamy Raju and Justice Arijit Pasayat, described the acquittal of the 21 accused as nothing but a travesty of truth and a fraud on the legal process and said the resultant decisions of the lower courts called for interference. "It is no acquittal in the eye of the law and no sanctity or credibility can be attached and given to the so-called findings," it said.

The Bench issued the directions while allowing appeals by the Gujarat Government and Ms. Zaheera, challenging the acquittal of the accused by a fast track court in Vadodara on June 27, 2003 and upheld by the High Court by its judgment dated December 16, 2003.

Expressing its shock and anguish, the Bench said: "When the ghastly killings take place in the land of Mahatma Gandhi, it raises a very pertinent question as to whether some people have become so bankrupt in their ideology that they have deviated from everything which was so dear to him. When a large number of people, including innocent and helpless children and women, are killed in a diabolic manner, it brings disgrace to the entire society."

Writing the judgment for the Bench, Mr. Justice Pasayat said: "The little drops of humanness which jointly make humanity a cherished desire of mankind had seemingly dried up when the perpetrators of the crime had burnt alive helpless women and innocent children. Was it their [the victims'] fault that they were born in the houses of persons belonging to a particular community?"

The Bench directed that the re-investigation of the case be carried out by the Gujarat police under the supervision of the Director-General of Police. It ordered that the trial proceed on a day-to-day basis under a new Public Prosecutor to be appointed by the Gujarat Government in consultation with the victims and the witnesses.

`Justice system abused'

The Bench noted that the approach of the High Court suffered from serious infirmities and that its conclusions were lopsided and lacked a judicious application of mind. In this case, "the justice delivery system was allowed to be taken for a ride, abused, misused and mutilated by subterfuge. The investigation appears to be perfunctory and anything but impartial, without any definite object of finding out the truth and bringing to book those who were responsible for the crime."

Coming down on the Public Prosecutor, the Bench said he had acted more as a defence counsel than one whose duty was to present the truth to the court which, in turn, appeared to be a silent spectator, mute to the manipulations and preferring to be indifferent to the sacrilege being committed to justice.

On the role of the Modi Government, the Bench said: "It leaves much to be desired. One gets a feeling that there was really no seriousness in the State's approach in assailing the trial court's judgment. "Whether the accused persons were really assailants or not could have been established by a fair and impartial investigation. The modern day Neros were looking elsewhere when the Best Bakery and innocent children and helpless women were burning and were probably deliberating on how the perpetrators of the crime can be saved or protected."

`Mock trial'

The Bench said: "Criminal trials should not be reduced to mock trials or shadow boxing or fixed trials. The judicial criminal administration system must be kept clean and beyond the reach of whimsical political wills or agendas and properly insulated from discriminatory standards or yardsticks of the type exhibited by the mandate of the Constitution."

The Bench also expunged the critical observations made by the High Court against the social activist, Ms. Teesta Setalvad, for championing the case of Ms. Zaheera, saying there was no justification for such observations. In its judgment, the High Court had raised "serious" doubts over the claims of Ms. Zaheera that threats had forced her to turn hostile during trial and observed that "there seems to be a definite conspiracy to malign people by misusing her."

Printer friendly page  
Send this article to Friends by E-Mail

Front Page

News: Front Page | National | Tamil Nadu | Andhra Pradesh | Karnataka | Kerala | New Delhi | Other States | International | Opinion | Business | Sport | Miscellaneous |
Classifieds | Employment | Updates: Breaking News |

Clasic Farm Bharat Matrimony

News Update

The Hindu Group: Home | About Us | Copyright | Archives | Contacts | Subscription
Group Sites: The Hindu | Business Line | The Sportstar | Frontline | The Hindu eBooks | Home |

Copyright 2004, The Hindu. Republication or redissemination of the contents of this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of The Hindu