The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Zahira wealth under scanner

New Delhi, Feb. 21: The Supreme Court today asked Zahira Sheikh, the main witness in the Best Bakery case, to file details of her assets and money deposits in banks before a committee directed to probe allegations and counter allegations levelled by her and activist Teesta Setalvad against each other.

Zahira has accused Teesta of blackmailing her and extracting statements to revive the case in which she has turned hostile. Teesta, on her part, has accused Zahira of taking bribes to hush up the case.

A committee headed by Supreme Court registrar-general B.M. Gupta was constituted on January 10 to go into the charges. Delhi police joint commissioner Kanwaljeet Deol has been co-opted as a member of the panel.

The apex court today extended the term of the committee by three months. A division bench of Justices Arijit Passayat and H.K. Sema said the panel would come to a conclusion on the 'veracity' of the allegations of both parties which had impaired a fair trial.

The judges gave Zahira four weeks to file before the panel the details of her assets and money in bank accounts, as well as her bank balances for the last three years.

The judges refused to pass an order directing Teesta to furnish her bank balance and other financial details as prayed for by Zahira's senior counsel P.N. Lekhi. The bench observed that the panel would look into the matter if Zahira made any allegation about Teesta getting funds from abroad, especially the Arab world ' an argument advanced by Lekhi during earlier hearings in the Supreme Court.

Zahira has alleged that Teesta 'confined' her in a room to extract statements to transfer the Best Bakery case from Gujarat to Maharashtra. In the special trial court in Mumbai, Zahira said the statements she had made were 'under duress' from Teesta and blamed the activist for misleading the court.

Teesta approached the Supreme Court seeking a CBI probe into the matter following which the apex court appointed the committee headed by its registrar-general.

The Tehelka weekly newspaper ' after a sting operation with spy cameras ' has published photographs indicating that Zahira allegedly changed her statements after being paid huge amounts of money at the instance of Gujarat BJP legislator Madhu Srivastava.

Bilkis in-camera

Bilkis Bano today deposed before a Mumbai trial court in-camera for the first time.

The prime witness in the case narrated the incidents of gang rape and murder that unfolded on March 3, 2002, in Dahod during the Gujarat riots.

Deposing for two hours amid tight security, Bilkis supported the prosecution's case but could not complete her story. Her deposition will continue tomorrow.

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