Best Bakery case: SC to hear govt appeal against relief order
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The Supreme Court Wednesday agreed to hear an appeal by the Gujarat government against an order to pay Rs 3 lakh each in compensation to at least eight key witnesses and victims in the the post-Godhra Best Bakery riots case.
A Bench of Justices Anil R Dave and Vikramjit Sen issued notices to the beneficiaries of the Bombay High Court order and sought their replies within two weeks.
Appearing for the state government, senior advocate Ranjit Kumar said that they had already paid adequate compensation to all the victims and witnesses in the case and that this fact was not taken into account by the High Court.
The lawyer contended that the state government was not given an opportunity of being heard before the Bombay High Court. He claimed there was no basis of the impugned order since the state was not even heard on the point of paying compensation to these persons and had they been given an opportunity, the government could satisfy the High Court that sufficient damages had been paid.
The Best Bakery trial was the first case to have been shifted out of a state on a plea by Zahira Shaikh, whose family owned the bakery. On April 12, 2004, the apex court had ordered a reinvestigation and a retrial "in a state away from the one where the crime had occurred".
After Sabarmati Express was torched at Godhra station, a mob attacked and burnt Best Bakery in Vadodara on March 1, 2002. Fourteen people were killed in the attack. While 21 people were charged with murder, nine were convicted by the trial court in Mumbai.
On an appeal, the High Court had last year upheld life sentence to four accused while acquitting five others for want of evidence. In its conviction order, the court had relied on the statements of four injured eyewitnesses — Tufil Ahmed Siddiqui, Raees Khan, Shahzad Khan Pathan and Shailun Khan Pathan, who, besides others, were granted the enhanced compensation.
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