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NHRC pans Best Bakery acquittals

July 02, 2003 22:02 IST

The acquittal of all the 21 accused in the Best Bakery case is prima facie a 'miscarriage of justice', the National Human Rights Commission chairman, Justice A S Anand, said on Wednesday.

"The Gujarat government must appeal against the verdict and if it does not, the relatives of the victims, complainants, can also seek permission of the court and file an appeal against the acquittal," he told NDTV 24x7 channel.

Twelve people were charred to death on March 1, 2002, in Best Bakery in Vadodara during a bandh called by the Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad to protest against the Godhra carnage.

A special court in Vadodara acquitted all the accused on June 27 for want of evidence.

An appeal must be filed in a case like this, more particularly when most of the witnesses had turned hostile and the rest of them were not even examined, Anand said.

About the role of the police during the post-Godhra riots, the NHRC chief said, "It is under question because it was one of those cases that the commission had earlier recommended to be handed over to the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation)."

Asked whether the case should be handed over to the CBI, Anand said, "The high court can direct it. Even the Gujarat government can make a request to the high court."

Asked whether there is a need for fresh inquiry into the case, he said, "Yes, certainly."

Anand said the NHRC plans to send a full team to Gujarat to get more details on the trial, according to a release issued by the TV network.

The former chief justice also suggested adoption of the Justice Malimath Commission recommendations to give protection to witnesses. "The commission has recommended greater protection for witnesses. This needs to be done at once so that what happened in Best Bakery is not repeated."

The NHRC chief regretted that the biggest problem in ensuring justice for riot victims is lack of political will, and said, "If the state government wants it, then justice can always be done."

Meanwhile, the Congress said that the case should be reopened and placed in the hands of a specially appointed public prosecutor.

This is needed as a 'predetermined chief minister (Narendra Modi) has successfully presided over a collusive prosecution agency, permitted suborning of witnesses and disappearance of complaints in a trail where truth has been a major casualty'.

He hailed the NHRC's initiation of inquiries regarding the conduct of the case by the state government.

Press Trust of India

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