Shaikh Yasmeen Bano, a key prosecution witness in the 2002 Best Bakery case, has moved the Bombay High Court alleging that she was “lured and misguided” by a social activist into giving false testimony against 17 accused persons, of which nine were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Yasmeen filed the petition earlier this week, after no action was taken on her letter dated June 17, 2010 addressed to the Chief Justice of Bombay High Court.
“Yasmeen gave false deposition against the accused and identified them falsely at the behest and advice of Teesta Setalvad only in the false hope that she (Teesta) would help her financially,” the petition states.
It further claims that Setalvad had made Yasmeen an instrument to achieve the ulterior goal. “Yasmeen was obsessed with the idea of getting money from Teesta and hence she did not think much about the repercussion of her false deposition against innocent persons. She is however repenting now,” the petition states.
Yasmeen has sought that her evidence be recorded afresh by the High Court while hearing the appeal filed by the nine convicted accused challenging the trial court’s order.
Yasmeen was the only prosecution witness from the Shaikh family who stood by the police’s case against the 17 accused.
Rest of the family, including prime witness and Yasmeen’s sister-in-law Zaheera Shaikh, had turned hostile, alleging that they were forced by Setalvad to lie.
According to Yasmeen, one Rais Khan, who is a close associate of Setalvad, had met her along with local Muslim leaders claiming that her life was in danger in Gujarat and she should shift to Mumbai where she would be taken care of.
In February 2006, the sessions court here sentenced nine accused to life imprisonment. The court later tried and convicted Zaheera and others who had turned hostile for perjury.
Fourteen people who had taken refuge in the Best Bakery -- owned by the Shaikh family -- in Vadodara were killed on March 1, 2002, during the post-Godhra riots.
All the convicts have filed appeals in the Bombay High Court, which are yet to come up for hearing.