The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sound of silence after censure

Ahmedabad, Sept. 12: Walloped by the Supreme Court for failing to punish the guilty in the Best Bakery riot case, the Narendra Modi government wrapped itself in silence today.

Director-general of police K. Chakravarthy and chief secretary P.K. Lahari, who have been summoned by the apex court on September 19, held a closed-door meeting.

Afterwards, government spokesperson Saurabh Patel only said the two officials would appear in court. The government made no further comment on the censure.

BJP spokesperson Nalin Bhatt said he would react after studying the “pronouncement’’.

State Congress chief Shankersinh Vaghela called the court’s observation a “slap in the face of the Narendra Modi government’’ and demanded that the chief minister resign on moral grounds.

“If the BJP is so shameless, then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who had advised Modi to practise raj dharma, should dismiss him,” Vaghela said. The court told Modi today to quit if he could not protect the weak and perform his “raj dharma”.

Human rights activist Hanif Lakdawala said the Supreme Court observation had restored the faith of the minority community in the judiciary. He pointed out that the judges had seen through the fact that the state government’s appeal against the acquittal of the riot accused was an “eyewash”.

The Modi government had filed an appeal in the high court against the acquittal of the 21 accused after the National Human Rights Commission stepped into the picture and the demand for a retrial was raised.

“It was an eyewash because public prosecutor Arun Oza had not made any prayer for retrial or re-investigation of the Best Bakery case,” said Shaktisinh Gohil, a high court advocate.

Leading human rights activist Girish Patel, who had been critical of the “state government’s real intention”, said he felt vindicated. The real intention behind filing an appeal in the high court was to “forestall the proceeding in the Supreme Court”, he said.

When the National Human Rights Commission sent a team to Vadodara after the Best Bakery case accused were acquitted by the fast-track court and decided to approach the Supreme Court for retrial, not only the BJP and the rest of the Sangh parivar but also the high court bar association had condemned it. Upholding the judgment of the fast–track court, the bar association had pledged to protect the lower judiciary.

Rajendra Trivedi, the defence counsel for the Best Bakery accused, said he is not perturbed over the possibility of the case being reopened. “Even if a retrial is conducted, we are ready for it and we will face whatever happens,” he said, denying that the accused had pressured or threatened witnesses.

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