New Delhi: The Supreme Court today admitted
the appeal filed by the CBI and the Gujarat government
challenging the High Court`s acquittal of 12 convicts in the
sensational murder of former state Home Minister Haren Pandya.
A bench of justices P Sathasivam and J Chelameshwar,
while admitting the petition, issued notices to the convicts
for their response.
While Additional Solicitor General Harin Raval appeared
for the CBI, senior counsel L Nageshwar Rao and counsel
Hemantika Wahi appeared for the state of Gujarat.
The appeal was filed by the investigating agency and the
state police questioning the August 29, 2010, acquittal by the
Gujarat High Court as being erroneous.
The High Court had, while acquitting the 12 convicts of
the charges of murder, upheld the trial court`s decision to
convict them for criminal conspiracy, attempt to murder and
offences under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
Pandya, a former minister of state for home in the BJP
government and once close to Chief Minister Narendra Modi, was
shot dead on March 26, 2003, in Ahmedabad when he was out for
a morning walk. According to CBI, Pandya was murdered to
avenge the 2002 communal riots in the state.
The High Court, while criticising CBI for botched-up
investigations, 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 the Special POTA court on the basis of the
deposition of main accused Asghar Ali who admitted to their
plan to attack prominent VHP and other Hindu leaders of
Gujarat to avenge the 2002 riots.
Nine of the 12 convicts were awarded life imprisonment by
the POTA court but the high court had acquitted them.
The accused had already undergone eight and half years in
jail. Besides Asghar Ali, other acquitted convicts 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 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
(currently based in Pakistan) and trained at the behest of ISI
of Pakistan, the agency had earlier said.
The case was earlier probed by the state police but
later handed over to CBI.