Ahmedabad, Sept. 29: Gujarat High Court has issued warrants against all 21 accused acquitted in the Best Bakery case after the state government filed an amended criminal appeal.
Following a stricture by the Supreme Court on its earlier petition challenging a Vadodara trial court’s acquittal of the accused, advocate-general S.. Shelat filed the amended appeal, seeking retrial.
The apex court had pulled up the state government for filing an appeal that did not ask for a retrial, calling it an “eyewash”.
A division bench of Justices D.K. Trivedi and M.S. Shah admitted the amended appeal and fixed December 1 as the next day of hearing. Vadodara police commissioner Sudhir Sinha said all 21 persons, who were acquitted by the trial court for want of evidence, will be arrested.
The court has ordered the advocate-general to submit the record of the affidavits filed by four witnesses — Zahira Sheikh, Sahera Sheikh, Sajid Khan and Mohmmed Ashraf — in the Supreme Court. The four had filed affidavits, saying they were threatened into lying in the trial court.
The director-general of police has been asked to file an affidavit, explaining how he will protect the witnesses. The fast-track trial court in Vadodara has been asked to prepare a paperbook and send it to the high court.
Fourteen people were burnt to death in Best Bakery in Vadodara on March 1, 2002, during the post-Godhra riots. Of the 43 witnesses in the case, 37 turned hostile leading to the acquittal of all the 21 accused.
After the National Human Rights Commission petitioned the Supreme Court for a retrial, the Gujarat government on August 7 moved the high court, challenging the Vadodara Court’s judgment.
Zahira, the key witness in the case, told the apex court that she had retracted her statement under threat from BJP MLA Madhu Srivastava and his cousin, Congress councillor Chandrant.