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SC refuses plea for fresh probe or reinvestigation into Haren Pandya killing

A file photo of Haren Pandya.

A file photo of Haren Pandya.   | Photo Credit: PTI

The Supreme Court on Friday declined to order further investigation or reinvestigation into the murder of former Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya in 2003.

In a 234-page judgment, a Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and M.R. Shah said the case had attained finality and a PIL based on newspaper reports, statement by witness Azam Khan and “conjectures” arrived in a book cannot be the basis of a court ordering further probe or reinvestigation.

The court said the PIL was filed by NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan, with an “oblique motive” at the instance of the accused persons in the case. The PIL was based on materials given to the NGO by the accused persons, the judgment said.

“In all fairness, such petition ought not to have been filed by CPIL at the instance of accused, it is clearly misused of forum of PIL. Only an application could have been preferred by the accused persons or by the petitioner or any other interested person in the criminal appeals. Even otherwise, we have not found on merits any material or ground worthy to direct further investigation or reinvestigation in the case,” the judgment noted.

The court imposed costs of Rs. 50,000 on CPIL, which had argued that there was “startling” fresh evidence in the case against senior Gujarat police officers and senior politicians. The fine has to be paid to the Supreme Court Bar Association Advocates Welfare Fund within a month.

Pandya,who was the Minister in the then Narendra Modi government, was shot dead on March 26, 2003, in Ahmedabad near the Law Garden area during his morning walk.

The apex court, in separate appeals by the CBI and the Gujarat government, set aside the Gujarat High Court decision acquitting all 12 accused and restored the trial court order convicting them.

A Special PoTA (Prevention of Terrorist Activities) court had earlier convicted all the accused.

HC slams CBI

The High Court had, moreover, slammed the CBI for a “botched up” and “blinkered” probe.

CPIL had claimed that “new pieces of information that have come to light regarding the possibility of IPS officers, including D.G. Vanzara, being involved in the conspiracy to kill Pandya.” It had alleged that Pandya was killed by henchmen who acted on the basis of a contract put out by Mr. Vanzara. The allegation, the petition said, was based on a recent witness testimony in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case.

But the apex court refused to believe the allegations in the petition.

“Statement of Mohd. Azam Khan who was examined as a witness has been relied on. It was stated by him that Sohrabuddin told him that Shahid Rampuri, Naeem Khan and he got a contract to kill Haren Pandya and they had killed him. He felt sad and told Sohrabuddin that they have killed a good person. Thereafter Sohrabuddin told him that this contract of killing was given by Mr. Vanzara. In our opinion, the aforesaid statement made by Azam Khan was totally out of the context of a criminal case in which he had deposed. It was clearly an attempt as an afterthought to make the statement as to some other matter irrelevant to controversy,” the top court concluded.

Setting aside the High Court judgment of acquittal, the apex court held “the CBI has investigated the case thoroughly and minutely and the conspiracy between accused persons has been found established. There is voluminous evidence... It cannot be said that investigation was unfair, lopsided, botched up or misdirected in any manner whatsoever as had been observed by the high court.”

The Supreme Court upheld the CBI appeal against the acquittal of some of the accused by the High Court. It restored the conviction and sentence imposed by the trial court on accused Mohmed Asgar Ali, Kalim Ahmed, Anas Machiswala, Mohmed Yunus Sareshwala, Rehan Puthawala, Mohmed Riyaz, Mohmed Parvez Sheikh, Parvez Khan Pathan and Mohmed Faruq.

The CBI did not prefer an appeal against accused Mohmed Abdul Raouf, Mohd. Shafiuddin and Shahnawaz Gandhi. Both Mohd. Shafiuddin and Shahnawaz Gandhi have also completed their sentence. 

Another accused Mohd. Sheikh was separately tried and no interference was sought in his conviction and sentence. 

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Printable version | Aug 7, 2020 2:33:02 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sc-refuses-cpils-plea-for-fresh-probe-into-murder-of-haren-pandya/article28292324.ece

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