Haren Pandya Murder: SC Sets Aside Guj HC Order, All 12 Convicted

Former Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya was shot dead on 26 March 2003 in Ahmedabad.

Updated
India
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Former Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya. 
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The Supreme Court on Friday, 5 July, restored a trial court order convicting 12 persons in the murder of former Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya in 2003.

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, IANS reported.

The top court restored the conviction of nine convicts under provisions of the now-repealed Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and charges of conspiracy to murder Pandya.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.

Two other 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 sentences fully awarded to them, the top court said that no further interference is made against these three, and disposed of the case.

‘Murdered to Avenge 2002 Communal Riots’

The court also held no grounds for further investigation and dismissed the PIL filed by NGO 'Centre for Public Interest Litigation' (CPIL) which has sought court-monitored fresh investigation into the killing and imposed a fine of Rs 50,000.

Pandya was minister in the then Narendra Modi-led state government in Gujarat. He was shot dead on 26 March 2003 in Ahmedabad near Law Garden during his 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.

What Did the High Court Order Say?

The high court, while acquitting the 12 persons of the charges of murder, had upheld the trial court’s decision to convict them of the charges of criminal conspiracy, attempt to murder and for the offences under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA).

The apex court had on 31 January this year reserved the verdict on the appeals in the matter.

On 5 January 5, 2012, the top court had admitted the appeals filed by the CBI and state against the high court's judgement.

The high court, while criticising the CBI for 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.

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