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The Supreme Court today convicted the accused charged with the murder of former Gujarat Minister Haren Pandya.
A Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Vineet Saran set aside the judgment of Gujarat High Court and restored the trial court verdict.
A PIL filed by NGO Common Cause seeking a fresh probe into the murder was dismissed by the Court with costs of Rs. 50,000.
Haren Pandya, who was Home Minister of Gujarat, was found shot dead inside his car on March 26, 2003.
The matter was initially investigated by the Gujarat Police, but the probe was subsequently handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Fifteen people were arraigned as accused in the case. Another case concerning an attempt to murder VHP leader Jagdish Tiwari was also heard along with the Haren Pandya murder case, as both were alleged to be part of the same conspiracy.
In June 2007, a Special Court convicted the twelve accused for the murder of Pandya. They were also held guilty of attempting to murder Jagdish Tiwari.
On appeal, the Gujarat High Court overturned the verdict and acquitted all twelve accused of the charges of murder of Haren Pandya. The conviction for the attempt to murder Tiwari and possession of illegal arms was, however, upheld.
The High Court also came down strongly upon the CBI for botching up the investigation, terming it as “blinkered” and a waste of public resources and the Court’s time.
The CBI and the State of Gujarat then appealed before the Supreme Court.
In January this year, NGO Centre for PIL filed a petition in Supreme Court seeking a fresh probe into the murder of Pandya.
The NGO’s case was based on “some startling information” that recently came to light, and was extensively reported by the media regarding Haren Pandya’s murder.
Reliance was placed on the testimony of one of the witnesses in another controversial case – the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case.
The witness, Azam Khan, during his examination before the trial court on November 3, 2018, revealed that Sohrabuddin had told him that a contract to kill Haren Pandya had been given to him by Gujarat cadre IPS officer DG Vanzara and that Sohrabuddin’s associate Tulsiram Prajapati along with one Naeem and a Shahid Rampuri had murdered Haren Pandya in pursuance of that contract.
Azam Khan also revealed that he had given this information to the CBI in 2010 (when an appeal in Haren Pandya’s murder was pending before the High Court of Gujarat) but the CBI did not pay any heed to this information. He was allegedly told keep quiet about it, as it would lead to problems for the investigating agency.
The petition, however, was opposed by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on the point of maintainability, citing absence of locus.
The Bench also did not take a favourable view of the petition, asking what need for a PIL was when an appeal filed by the State was already pending.
Image Courtesy: Outlook