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Bakery rap on cops & activists

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The Telegraph Online   |   Published 13.01.04, 12:00 AM

Ahmedabad, Jan. 12 (PTI): Police and NGOs today came under fire from Gujarat High Court, which dismissed the state government’s amended appeal challenging the acquittal of 21 accused in the Best Bakery case and seeking retrial.

In its 90-page judgment, a division bench of Justice B.J. Sethna and Justice J.R. Vora observed that the deputy commissioner of police and investigating officers had miserably failed to discharge their duties in not recording the FIR of key witness Zahira Sheikh at the site of the massacre.

The bench ruled that a retrial could not be ordered as the prosecution did not produce proper evidence.

The court added that “an attempt has been made by journalists, human rights activist Teesta Setalvad and advocate Mihir Desai to have a parallel investigating agency. We do not know how far it is proper, but we can state that it is not permissible under the law”.

The high court had dismissed the amended appeal of the Gujarat government on December 26 after concluding week-long arguments by advocate-general S.. Shelat, appearing for the state, and senior Supreme Court advocate Sushil Kumar for the accused.

Drawing a parallel between an apex court verdict on the Narmada dam and the bakery judgement, the high court said: “Once again, almost a similar attempt is made not only to cause indirect financial loss to the state but create a rift between two communities and spread hatred among the people of the state.”

The bench observed: “This time, the target is none else but the judiciary of the state and the system as a whole, which is a matter of grave concern.”

“The most unfortunate part of it is that some people within the state and the nation are giving undue importance to such elements who are misusing poor persons like Zahira and others,” it added.

The bench said it was not ready to believe that Zahira had turned hostile merely because she was threatened —she did not make any statement between May 17, 2003 (when she deposed before the court) and June 27 (when the acquittal was ordered).

“If she can make such (a) statement on the next day after the judgment was pronounced, then the question is why had she not stated so till June 27, 2003,” the bench observed.

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