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Breaking: SC Restores Conviction And Sentence Of Accused In Former Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya Murder Case [Read Judgment]

5 July 2019 5:27 AM GMT
Breaking: SC Restores Conviction And Sentence Of Accused In Former Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya Murder Case [Read Judgment]
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Supreme Court of India on Friday restored the conviction  and sentence of accused in the murder case of former state Home Minister Haren Pandya in 2003.

The Bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra was pronouncing the verdict on the appeals filed by CBI and the Gujarat government challenging the acquittal of 12 persons facing charges of murdering former state Home Minister Haren Pandya in 2003.

The bench dismissed a fresh  PIL filed by NGO 'Centre for Public Interest Litigation' (CPIL) which has sought court-monitored fresh investigation into the killing with Rs 50000 as Cost.

Pandya was minister in the then Narendra Modi-led state government in Gujarat. He was shot dead on March 26, 2003 in Ahmedabad near Law Garden during morning walk.

According to the CBI, he was murdered to avenge the 2002 communal riots in the state.

The appeals were filed by the CBI and the state police questioning the August 29, 2011 acquittal by the Gujarat High Court as being erroneous.

The trial court had convicted 12 persons for the murder of Pandya in June 2007. However, the High Court acquitted all of them in 2011, noting that the investigation was "botched" and "misdirected".

"The investigating officers concerned ought to be held accountable for their ineptitude resulting into injustice, harassment of many persons concerned and enormous waste of public resources and public time of the Courts", the HC had observed in the judgment.

The apex court had on January 31 this year reserved the verdict on the appeals in the matter.

On January 5, 2012, the top court had admitted the appeals filed by the CBI and state against the high court's judgement.

The high court, while criticising the CBI for botched-up investigation in the case, had said, "What clearly stands out from the record of the present case is that the investigation in the case of murder of Haren Pandya has all through been botched up and blinkered and has left a lot to be desired."

The accused were earlier convicted for a larger conspiracy by a special POTA court on the basis of deposition of main accused Asghar Ali, who had admitted to their plan to attack prominent VHP and other Hindu leaders of Gujarat to avenge the 2002 riots.

The other accused are -- Mohammad Rauf, Mohammad Parvez Abdul Kayum Sheikh, Parvez Khan Pathan alias Athar Parvez, Mohammad Farooq alias Haji Farooq, Shahnawaz Gandhi, Kalim Ahmeda alias Kalimullah, Rehan Puthawala, Mohammad Riaz Sareswala, Aniz Machiswala, Mohammad Yunus Sareswala and Mohammad Saifuddin.

According to CBI, prior to Pandya's killing, the convicts had made an attempt on the life of a local VHP leader Jagdish Tewari on March 11, 2003.

The agency had claimed these two incidents were part of a single conspiracy to spread terror among people in the aftermath of post-Godhra riots.

The offenders were illegally sent to Pakistan by absconding accused Rasul Parti and Mufti Sufiyan Patangia and trained at the behest of Pakistan's intelligence agency ISI, the agency had claimed.

The case was earlier probed by the state police but later handed over to the CBI.

Fresh PIL

Almost sixteen years after the murder of Haren Pandya, who was a BJP leader and Home Minister in Gujarat cabinet, a PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court by Centre for Public Interest Litigation(CPIL), seeking court-monitored fresh investigation of the case

The petition states that need for fresh investigation of the case has arisen in the light of the recent revelations made by Azam Khan, a witness in the Sohrabuddin case. As per the petition, on November 3, Azam Khan had given a statement during the trial of Sohrabuddin case that Sohrabuddin Sheikh had told him that Haren Pandya was murdered as a part of a contract killing for which the contract was given by DG Vanzara. The petition further states that he had also revealed that Sohrabuddin's associate Tulsiram Prajapati along with two others had murdered Haren Pandya as part of that contract.

The petition makes mention of a conversation recorded in the book "Gujarat Files" written by journalist Rana Ayyub. As per the conversation, YA Shaik, a CBI officer who handled the Haren Pandya case, revealed to Ayyub that the CBI had not done any investigation of its own and merely repeated what was told to them by the Gujarat Police. He also reportedly revealed that Haren Pandya's murder was a political conspiracy and that several politicians as well as IPS officers including DG Vanzara were involved in the conspiracy.

It also refers to a Time of India report of 2013, stating that Vanzara had told the team investigating encounter killings in Gujarat that Pandya was murdered as part of political conspiracy.

Click Here To Download Judgment

[Read Judgment]

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