The Gujarat government has decided to challenge in the Supreme Court the High Court's judgment acquitting all the 12 accused in the murder of the former Minister of State for Home, Haren Pandya.
Special Public Prosecutor J. M. Panchal informed this to Justice R.H. Shukla on Tuesday, when the High Court took up for hearing a petition of Mr. Pandya's wife, Jagruti Pandya, seeking a re-investigation into the murder.
A Division Bench delivered the judgment on August 29, reversing the trial court's order that sentenced the 12 accused to different periods of imprisonment, including life term to an alleged notorious criminal of Hyderabad, Asgar Ali. The court believed that it was Ali who pulled the trigger on Mr. Pandya on the morning of March 26, 2003, when the former Minister was about to alight from his car for a stroll in the Law Garden in the heart of the city.
The Bench had passed severe strictures on the CBI, which investigated the case, for “botching up” the probe. The CBI is likely to approach the apex court against the High Court judgement.
Hearing in December
Pointing out that time had not lapsed for the prosecution to challenge the judgment only after which Ms. Pandya's petition seeking a re-investigation could be taken up, Justice Shukla decided to fix the next hearing in December first week.
Ms. Pandya who, unlike other members of her in-laws' family, had so far refrained from making any allegations, in her petition, however, suspected the State government's “latest intentions.”
“I don't understand whether the State government is trying to help me in my quest for justice or is trying to prevent a re-investigation,” she said.
Ms. Pandya also wrote to Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, seeking his help for a re-investigation. She said she was unclear about the intentions of the State government and wanted him to direct the CBI to start a “free and fair re-investigation.” She also sought an appointment with Mr. Chidambaram to explain the issues to him.
Ms. Pandya said she also spoke to the CBI director to explain the “errors” committed by the investigating agency. But the CBI director disagreed that they committed any “mistake.” He said the High Court's judgment was unfortunate. She, however, is due to meet him in Delhi next week.
Even in her petition before the High Court, Ms. Pandya criticised the CBI for combining her husband's murder with a murder attempt on Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Jagdish Tiwari. This was aimed at diluting her husband's murder case into a “revenge killing” for the 2002 communal riots, she said.
She had made both the State government and the CBI respondents in her petition.
Commenting on the State government's decision to approach the Supreme Court, Ms. Pandya said she believed that it was trying to pre-empt a fresh investigation, which could lead to unearthing the real killers of her husband.
In her petition, she also mentioned about the claims made at different times about her husband's murder being linked with the fake encounter killings of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati. She pointed out that the investigation into her husband's murder was initially carried out by the same police officers, who were later arrested in connection with the encounter killings.