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NHRC moves SC seeking Best Bakery retrial
July 31, 2003 17:11 IST
Last Updated: July 31, 2003 20:26 IST
The National Human Rights Commission on Thursday petitioned the Supreme Court for a retrial outside Gujarat in the Best Bakery and four other 'serious' cases relating to the 2002 riots.
The commission's decision came more than a month after a fast- track court in Vadodara acquitted all the 21 accused in the Best Bakery case and a public outcry following statements by two women, Sahrunissa and Zaheera Sheikh, that they lied during evidence in the case due to fear of threat to their lives.
'Deeply concerned about the damage to the credibility of the criminal justice delivery system and negation of human rights of victims', the NHRC filed a special leave petition in the apex court with a prayer to set aside the impugned judgment of the trial court.
It sought a direction for further investigation by an independent agency.
The four cases for transfer are the Godhra incident, which triggered the riots, the Chamanpura (Gulbarga Society) incident, Naroda Patia incident and Sadarpura incident in Mehsana district.
The commission, which took the decision after considering a report of its team that visited Vadodara after the bakery case verdict, contended in the SLP that the concept of 'fair trial is a constitutional imperative and is explicitly recognised as such in the specific provisions of the Constitution'.
Observing that the 'violation of a right to fair trial is not only a violation of fundamental right under our Constitution, but also violative of the internationally recognised human rights', the NHRC said, "Whenever a criminal goes unpunished, it is the society at large that suffers because the victims become demoralised and criminals are encouraged.
"It, therefore, becomes the duty of the court to use all its powers to unearth the truth and render justice so that criminals are punished."
The commission said it was, therefore, imperative in the interests of justice for the Supreme Court, in exercise of its powers, to lay down guidelines and directions in relation to protection of witnesses and victims of crime in criminal trials, which can be adhered to both by the prosecuting and law enforcement agencies as well as the subordinate judiciary.
"This is essential in order to enhance the efficacy of the criminal justice delivery system," the commission said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, meanwhile, said the commission's action would 'vitiate' the communal atmosphere in Gujarat.
"The situation in the state is now normal and nothing should be done that would disrupt it," party spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said in New Delhi.
He said while the BJP is 'for justice to all those who have suffered due to the riots and punishing the guilty, we are not for politicising these issues'.