Press Trust of India, MUMBAI, Feb. 24. —
Human rights activists today hailed the convictions in the high-profile Best Bakery case, saying that the verdict in the re-trial has vindicated their standpoint that the Gujarat government had interfered with the probe, even as the defence team planned to file an appeal.
“The verdict is a complete vindication of the Supreme Court judgement ordering the trial. The entire process of the re-trial was as every trial should be. It was thorough, transparent, probing and zealous,” rights activist Ms Teesta Seetalvad told reporters here.
She said the re-trial, held outside the state on orders of the Supreme Court, has ensured probity and transparency as only seven of the total of 75 witnesses turned hostile as against 68 of the total 74 when the original trial was held in Gujarat. “The chargesheet was the same, the evidence was the same, the only difference is that here a thorough prosecution was doing its job…there the state of Gujarat was the prosecution and it was trying to subvert the trial,” Ms Seetalvad, who had been waging a prolonged battle to bring the accused to justice, told reporters.
However, the defence team was not happy with the sessions court verdict, awarding life imprisonment to nine of the 17 people charged with torching the Best Bakery in Vadodara during the post-Godhra riots killing 14 people, and said they would appeal against the verdict.
“We shall file an appeal the moment we get a certified copy of the judgement and in that we will make the submission as to why the judgement should be disbelieved or rejected,” defence lawyer Mr Adhik Shirodkar said.
Left leaders, rights activists and film actors too welcomed the verdict, saying the re-trial has set a precedent in the country’s criminal justice system. “We think that in this process the point we have been stating all along, that the state government is protecting the guilty in the Gujarat riots has been established,” CPI-M Politburo member Mr Sitaram Yechury said.
He said in the wake of the convictions, the Centre should initiate CBI probe in at least five most important riot cases to ensure confidence is generated among the people that the criminal justice system cannot be subverted.
Actor-activist Rahul Bose said the people who have been convicted are not the perpetrators or originators of the entire cycle of events and selective blood shed that took place in 2002.
“These people are just the end results of more devious minds at work and I hope that the future would see those minds being brought to book,” he said.
Victory of justice, says Cong
NEW DELHI, Feb. 24. — Welcoming the verdict in the Best Bakery case, the Congress today described it as a victory of justice and a stinging defeat of the Modi agenda. The BJP declined to comment. “I have nothing to say,” BJP spokesman and general secretary Mr Arun Jaitley said, when asked for his reaction to the verdict. — SNS