New Delhi– The Supreme Court on Friday restored a trial court order convicting 12 persons in the murder of former Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya in 2003.
Pandya was shot dead in Ahmedabad on March 26, 2003. According to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), he was killed to avenge the 2002 communal riots in the state.
A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Vineet Saran upheld the Gujarat trial court verdict in the case, setting aside the 2011 Gujarat High Court order that acquitted the 12 accused of the murder charges.
The top court restored the conviction of nine convicts under provisions of the now-repealed Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and charges of conspiracy to murder Pandya. They were sentenced to life imprisonment by the trial court.
On the main accused Mohammad Asghar Ali, it said that in view of overall evidence available against the accused, he was “rightly held guilty by Trial Court for offence under section 3(1) and section 3(3) of Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) as well as under section 120B (conspiracy) and section 120B read with section 302 (murder) IPC for murder of Haren Pandya. The conviction and sentence imposed by the trial court is restored”.
Those nine convicts are Ali, Kalim Ahmed, Anas Machiswala, Mohammad Yunus Sareshwala, Rehan Puthawala, Mohammad Riyaz, Mohammad Parvez Sheikh, Parvez Khan Pathan, and Mohammad Faruq.
Other two accused – Mohammaad Abdul Raouf and Shahnawaz Gandhi – were sentenced to five years jail under provisions of the POTA while Mohammad Shafiuddin was awarded seven years rigorous imprisonment under charges of criminal conspiracy and attempt to murder.
As they have completed the sentence fully awarded to them, the top court said that no further interference is made against them and disposed of the case.
Hearing the CBI appeal against the state high court judgement, the Supreme Court in January reserved its verdict on the appeal.
On Friday, the top court also dismissed a petition filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) seeking a fresh probe into the case and slapped a fine of Rs 50,000 on the NGO.
While delivering its judgement, the court relied upon the statement of eye witnesses, particularly handcart puller Anil Yadram Patel, who had identified Asghar Ali, as well as medical evidence.
“Entire incident was witnessed by Anilram Yadram Patel (PWA55), who identified AA1 (Asghar Ali), whom he saw firing at Pandya from firearm and he had narrated the entire incident in his deposition and fully supported the version of the prosecution,” the bench noted.
The court said that there was no inconsistency in the eye witness’ statement or medical evidence, saying the high court was “confused” as to the number of injuries as there were seven wounds while five bullets were fired.
The court also relied upon on confession statements of convicts including Asghar Ali, saying: “Confession of Asghar Ali has been supported by various other evidence on the record like phone calls, recovery of the weapon, vehicle, hiring of rooms, etc.”
Asgar Ali has disclosed that he was given a loaded revolver by Machinswala and he fired five bullets on Pandya, who was in a car, from the window on the driver’s side and fled away on Yunus’ motorbike.
Initially, the local police began investigating the Pandya murder case, but after two days, the state government handed over the matter to the CBI. (IANS)