HC acquits five in Best Bakery case, 4 get life
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Citing lack of adequate evidence, Bombay High Court today acquitted five persons accused in the 2002 Best Bakery attack case, while upholding the conviction of four others.
While Rajubhai Baria, Pankaj Gosavi, Jagdish Rajput, Shailesh Tadvi and Suresh Vasava were acquitted, Sanjay Thakkar, Bahadur Singh Chauhan, Shanabhai Baria and Dinesh Rajbhar were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Fourteen people were killed at Best Bakery, Vadodara, after a mob attacked it on March 1, 2002 during the Gujarat riots. Eleven of the victims belonged to the Sheikh family which owned the bakery.
Relying on the statements of four witnesses, all workers at the bakery, a division bench of Justices V M Kanade and P D Kode noted that the witnesses had attributed specific roles to all the four who were convicted: about them carrying soda bottles, kerosene bottles and swords. However, no specific roles were attributed to the five others.
"(They)... escaped from the clutches of death. Normally, such witnesses would not falsely implicate the accused," said the order.
The court also rapped the investigating agencies for "serious lapses". "It was the duty of the police to ensure that the statements of the witnesses are taken properly... the witnesses cannot be held responsible for omissions, as they might have been in fear and shock," it said.
In February 2006, a sessions court in Mumbai had convicted nine of the 17 accused in the case and given them life imprisonment.
"The witnesses knew the five accused only by face and could not give details," said additional public prosecutor Jayesh Yagnik.
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