The Supreme Court on Friday restored the convictions and sentences of the accused in the murder of former Gujarat home minister Haren Pandya in 2003. A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra allowed the appeals of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Gujarat government challenging the Gujarat High Court order by which the convicts were absolved of murder charges in the case.
The apex court, however, dismissed a PIL filed by NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) seeking a court-monitored fresh probe in the Pandya murder case. It also imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on CPIL for filing the PIL and said no further petition would be entertained in the case.
However, while PTI reported that all 12 accused had been convicted by the apex court, ANI reported that seven of the accused had been found guilty by the court.
The Gujarat High Court, while acquitting the accused of the charges of murder, had upheld the trial court's decision that convicted them for criminal conspiracy, attempt to murder and offences under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). The trial court had awarded punishment ranging from five years to life imprisonment to the convicts.
Pandya was the home minister in the then Narendra Modi-led Gujarat government. He was shot dead on 26 March, 2003 near Law Garden in Ahmedabad during a 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 29 August, 2011 acquittal by the Gujarat High Court as being "erroneous". The apex court had on 31 January, 2019 reserved the verdict on the appeals in the matter.
On 5 January, 2012, the top court had admitted the appeals filed by the CBI and state against the high court's judgment. The high court, while criticising the CBI for a "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 11 March, 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.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Jul 05, 2019 11:48:08 IST