Four months after she filed a Special Criminal Application in the Gujarat High Court, seeking reinvestigation into the murder of Haren Pandya, his wife Jagruti Pandya has challenged the Central Bureau of Investigation's claim that her husband was killed at 7.30 a.m. on March 26, 2003.
The timing is crucial to establish the CBI's case that Pandya, former Home Minister, who was a regular morning walker, was killed in his car just after he had parked it in his usual slot in Ahmedabad's Law Garden.
According to the sole eyewitness to the murder, vendor Anil Yadram, the former Minister drove into the garden around 7.30 a.m. He had parked his car and was rolling up the window pane when he was shot dead by assassin Asgar Ali.
Ms. Pandya disputes this and told The Hindu : “My husband left our home in Paldi in his car between 6.45 a.m. and 7 a.m. that day, and given that the Law Garden is less than 10 minutes away, he ought to have reached there latest by 7.10 a.m. By 7.30 a.m., he would have been walking in the garden and so could not have been killed in the car.”
“I remember the time”
Ms. Pandya said she remembered the time accurately because when Pandya left for the garden, their son was getting ready to go to school which started at 7 a.m.
The Hindu checked the distance between Paldi and the Law Garden on the website, Taxi Fare Calculator, which put the distance at 2.519 km and the estimated time of travel at eight minutes.
In her petition to the Gujarat High Court, filed immediately after the Court's acquittal of all 12 men convicted by the trial court for the murder, Ms. Pandya did question the time of the murder but without giving away the details of when her husband left home and when, according to her, he ought to have reached the garden.
In her petition, Ms. Pandya accused the CBI of deliberately not summoning her and said her examination was crucial because she could have proved that “he [Pandya] had sufficient time to go for a morning walk. In other words, it [her examination] would have revealed that the prosecution theory that late Shri Pandya was shot in the car immediately when he arrived at Law Garden is incorrect.”
During the trial, the defence made a strong case for Ms. Pandya to be summoned.
However, the CBI refused to oblige saying she was not an eye-witness to the murder.
The defence argued that the prosecution's version, based on alleged call records of the accused, restricted the murder time to a narrow band - that is between 7. 19 a.m. and 7. 29 a.m. on March 26, 2003. Reason: At 7. 18 a.m., one of Asgar Ali's associates, who was stationed at the Law Garden phoned another associate to say that Asgar had not reached the Law Garden.
At 7.33 a.m., Asgar called another associate from a bridge some distance away to say that the murder had been committed. If Asgar did not arrive until 7.18 a.m., the murder could not have been committed earlier. If he had left the garden by 7.33 a.m., the murder could not have been committed later.
So the defence said: “This shows the importance of a reliable time indication and throws the focus on the absence of a credible witness to speak of when Mr. Pandya left home … We have no independent material to judge when he left, whether he came straight to the Law Garden and how long it would have taken for him to reach.”
Ms. Pandya made another point to The Hindu . She said she called her husband several times between 9 a.m. and 9.30 a.m. on the day of the murder. This was to remind him of his appointment with his personal exercise trainer.
“Who erased the calls? Why did his mobile phone show no calls?”
The Pandya family has always disputed the prosecution version in the case.
Until his death recently, Pandya's father, Vithalbhai Pandya, had consistently maintained that his son had fallen to a political plot.