The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Zahira in tears, jail poser to SC
- Uncertainty over perjury prison term execution

Mumbai, March 13: Zahira Sheikh, the prime witness in the Best Bakery case who has been sentenced to jail for perjury, broke down in court today, prompting the judge to seek the Supreme Court’s opinion executing her punishment.

Zahira, taken to the court of judge Abhay Thipsay in the morning after she gave herself up on Friday night, dissolved into sobs when asked what made her surrender in the Mumbai court when the jail term was pronounced by the Supreme Court.

Zahira pleaded that she be kept in a Maharashtra jail and not in Gujarat as she apprehended danger to her life.

The judge, however, noted that the Supreme Court order did not specify the manner in which the sentence is to be executed and said the apex court had also not issued a directive to Gujarat police to detain her in a jail there.

“Under these circumstances, it would not be proper on the part of this court to give her custody to Gujarat police,” the judge said.

Zahira said she wanted to speak with the judge in-camera, following which Thipsay asked reporters and spectators to leave.

Back in the courtroom after almost two hours, Zahira also requested the court to set her free from police custody. But the court extended her custody till Thursday, the next date of hearing.

Wearing a burqa, Zahira looked tired with dark circles under her eyes. The prosecution said she had refused to eat for the past three days.

The Mumbai court had sentenced nine persons to life imprisonment in the Best Bakery case and slapped perjury notices on Zahira and her family members.

Zahira and her family had retracted their statements and said they could not identify the accused.

On being informed by the prosecution that Zahira did not eat anything in the police station lock-up, the judge gave permission to her to have food from home. Some of her relatives are living in Mumbai.

The court told Zahira’s mother Shehrunnisa that she could carry food for her daughter.

When the judge asked Zahira why she had given false submissions, she said she had nothing to say.

Zahira sought the court’s permission to go home on March 20 to attend a ritual linked to the recent death of her brother Nafitullah.

However, the judge said she could not be released as she had surrendered to undergo the one-year jail term ordered by the Supreme Court. “It is now proved that you have told lies and for that you are punished. What if I release you and Gujarat police take you in custody'” the judge asked.

He assured her that Maharashtra would provide her adequate security in custody.

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