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Retrial plea heads back to SC

Ahmedabad, Dec. 27: Human rights activists will approach the Supreme Court against Gujarat High Court’s dismissal of the state government’s appeal seeking retrial in the Best Bakery case.

The Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) said it will move the apex court in the first week of January when it reopens after winter vacation.

“We will point out legal loopholes in the judgment. The cases which the CJP wants to be transferred outside the state are listed for hearing on January 30. We expect the court to take up the matter that day,” Teesta Setalvad, the NGO’s secretary, said over phone from Mumbai.

“By then,” she added, “we will have the copy of the high court judgment giving reasons for dismissing the amended appeal.”

The division bench of Justices B.J. Sethna and J.R. Vora had yesterday said, while passing the judgment, that “the reasons will follow later (after the winter vacation)”.

The Mumbai-based NGO had first moved the apex court after a fast-track court in Vadodara acquitted all 21 accused of charring 14 people at the bakery on March 1, 2002, during post-Godhra communal riots.

“The CJP had also assisted the victims to file an application in the current high court proceedings but Gujarat High Court thought it fit not to entertain the revision,” Setalvad’s statement said. “The dismissal is indeed shocking, but we still have faith in the highest court in the land,” it added.

For riot victims such as Sayed Khan Pathan of Gulbarg Society, which was set ablaze, the high court judgement was not unexpected.

“We knew it was coming. We never expected that we would get justice in Gujarat. Unless riots cases are conducted outside the state, the Best Bakery acquittal case will be repeated,” he said.

Ahmedabad-based rights activist Cedric Prakash said: “We will move the Supreme Court to challenge the order dismissing the appeal.” The state had filed the amended appeal three months ago after being pulled up by the apex court for filing an “eyewash of an appeal” earlier.

Analyst Achut Yagnik said the case showcased the “failure of (the) criminal justice system” and the dismissal confirmed there was something wrong either with the “investigation or prosecution”.

High court advocate Mukul Sinha blamed the government for its inability to convince the high court of the necessity for a retrial.

“It is entirely the government’s failure. It was the government’s own case. The fast-track court judgment was bad and justice was denied to the extent that the state government was forced to seek retrial.’’ So, he said, it was up to the government to take the matter to the apex court.

“The Supreme Court has the power to direct a retrial outside Gujarat,” said a member of Setalvad’s organisation.

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