HC Pulls Up CBI, Acquits 12 Accused in Pandya Case

Ahmedabad
HC Pulls Up CBI, Acquits 12 Accused in Pandya Case
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553
Slamming the CBI for its "botched up" and "blinkered" investigations, the Gujarat High Court today dropped murder charges against the 12 accused in the killing of former minister Haren Pandya eight years ago.

The Court while acquitting the 12 persons of the murder charges however upheld the trial court's decision to convict them for criminal conspiracy, attempt to murder and offences under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

Pandya, who was a former minister of state for home in a BJP government and was once close to Chief Minister Narendra Modi, was shot dead on March 26, 2003 near Law Garden area of the city when he was out for a morning walk. According to CBI, Pandya was murdered to avenge the 2002 communal riots.

All the 12 accused except key conspirator Mohammad Asgar Ali are likely to be released from jail as they had been behind bars since 2003 as far as Pandya murder case was concerned, said special public prosecutor J M Panchal. Ali will be in prison for some more time.

The division bench of justices D H Waghela and J C Upadhyaya came down heavily on CBI, terming its investigation as "botched up" and "blinkered" that left a lot to be desired.

"The charge for the offence punishable under section 302 of IPC is held to have not been proved beyond reasonable doubt," the court said.

Since conviction for section 302 (murder) or 302 read with 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy) could not survive, the orders of sentence based on those charges are set aside and to that extent, the appeals are partly allowed, it said.

Criticising the CBI, the court observed, "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 throughout been botched up and blinkered and has left a lot to be desired."

"The investigating officers ought to be held accountable for their ineptitude resulting into injustice, huge harassment of many persons and enormous waste of public resources and public time of the courts," the high court said.

"In fact, the investigation clearly appears to have been so botched up and misdirected that the confessional statements recorded during the police remand could not be safely relied on for convicting any of the appellants for commission of, abatement of or conspiracy to commit murder," it said.

The ruling stated, "The material evidence on record could not support the conclusions drawn in the impugned (trial court) judgment as far as killing of Pandya by Ashgar Ali was concerned."

The high court also doubted the veracity of the statement of the sole eyewitness, Anil Patel, saying that there were "inherent contradictions and improbabilities" in it.

The confessional statements of the accused were unsafe to rely upon as the facts stated therein were not corroborated by other independent evidence, the high court held.

"Under such circumstances, one set of weak and doubtful evidence of the sole eye-witness and the ballistic expert could not find corroboration and support from other weaker pieces of evidence in the form of confessional statements," the court observed.

While dropping murder charges against all the accused, the high court upheld the charges of criminal conspiracy and terrorism against Ali and 11 others, agreeing with the trial court's verdict.

Reacting to the verdict, state government spokesperson Jaynarayan Vyas said, "We hope that CBI ensures that real culprits are brought to the book and the matter is appropriately taken up at the level of highest court in this country."
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