New Delhi, July 11: Outraged at the acquittal of the accused in the Best Bakery killings, relatives of victims and NGOs of Gujarat have sought reopening of the case.
They have made an appeal for retrial to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, Chief Justice V.. Khare and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.
Ever since Zahira Sheikh, the key witness to the killing of 14 people in Vadodara during last year’s Gujarat riots, admitted that she had been afraid to speak in court, there has been a groundswell of demand for reopening the case.
Najid Hussain, son-in-law of Congress leader Ehsan Jafri who was killed by a mob in Ahmedabad during the riots, has written to Advani appealing for justice.
“In the aftermath of the Gujarat carnage, you have often said that Gujarat will remain on the consciousness of the BJP government and that it was outrageous and indefensible. There is nothing to doubt your sincerity when you say this,” Hussain wrote, reminding Advani of his statements in London.
“This is the time to act on those humane feelings.”
Advani, a member of Parliament from Gujarat’s Gandhinagar, had kept a low profile during the riots saying little publicly on the bloodletting. But on a trip to the UK subsequently, he condemned the riots.
“I appeal to you to ensure that justice is now done in Gujarat. The communal bias shown by the state government has been obvious to all of us, including perhaps you.”
“You should direct the Gujarat government to uphold the Constitution that promises equality and human dignity to every citizen of India, regardless of race, religion or colour.... Please direct the Modi government to stop subverting the judicial system and misusing the state machinery…”
In normal circumstances, once a verdict is given, only the court can order a retrial. But, a legal expert said, as home minister, Advani can approach the court for retrial on the ground that the Centre believes there has been a miscarriage of justice.
Hussain and a number of citizens of Gujarat have similarly asked both the President and the chief justice to get the Best Bakery case opened for retrial.
“We appeal to you to intervene and direct the delivery of justice as per the provisions of the Indian Constitution in the cases filed against the rioters whose actions brought about deaths of a number of people and damage to their properties during the Godhra and post-Godhra incidents,” the citizens wrote in the letter demanding the Supreme Court’s intervention.
The chief justice can treat the appeal as a public interest litigation and have it heard by a bench of the Supreme Court.
A presidential call for retrial can, however, have only moral — as opposed to legal — authority.
In another letter, the same group wrote to Modi, quoting the observations of Justice A.S. Anand, chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission, who had described the acquittal of the 21 accused as a “miscarriage of justice”.
Anand had said this was an opportunity for the Modi government to re-establish its credibility.