The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Best Bakery 21 no worse off

Ahmedabad, Aug. 1: A day after the National Human Rights Commission moved the Supreme Court seeking retrial of those acquitted in the Best Bakery massacre, none of them has gone into hiding nor are they perturbed that a fresh trial may be ordered.

In June, a fast track court acquitted all 21 accused of burning alive 14 people at the Vadodara bakery in March last year.

One of the accused, Mahendra Jadhav, said: “Why should I be scared when I’m innocent' The court has acquitted me. If there is a retrial, I will prove my innocence. There are a number of Muslims who will tell the court that I actually helped them and saved them from mob fury. I was the first person to inform the police control room about the incident,’’ he added.

Jadhav, a mechanic, spent 15 months in jail before the case unravelled when key witness Zahira Sheikh turned hostile in court.

Zahira, daughter of the bakery owner who was burnt alive by the mob, said she had been pressured by BJP MLA Madhu Srivastava to lie in court. After her July 7 news conference in Mumbai, Zahira met members of the rights panel and demanded a retrial.

The panel based its retrial plea on the report of a team it sent to Vadodara to record statements from survivors of the massacre.

Jadhav, repairing the car of defence counsel Rajendra Trivedi who helped acquit all the accused in the case, said: “There is no problem (with the panel approaching the apex court). I do not have to think about it ’’

Trivedi is confident the apex court will not admit the petition. “The Supreme Court will not interfere…. It has never happened and will never happen. Accused, once tried, cannot be tried for the same offence again,’’ he said.

The counsel feels the rights panel’s move is aimed not so much at securing a retrial as putting pressure on lower courts. He says the purpose has been achieved to a large extent.

Trivedi cited the Sardarpur massacre in Mehsana district where 28 people were killed. He said a local court had completed hearings, but withheld judgment after the rights panel described the Best Bakery verdict as a “miscarriage of justice’’.

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