By: Prasad Patil, February 25, 2006
Moments before Judge Abhay Thipsay pronounced judgment in the Best Bakery case in a packed courtroom, all the 17 accused in the case were praying silently in the dock. Their lips moving, their bodies swinging back and forth in prayer. But the prayers did not help nine, who were convicted, and handed over maximum sentences prescribed under the law.
The only exception was the charge of murder (section 302 of IPC) for which all the nine accused were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Under section 302 of IPC, minimum imprisonment is life and maximum is death. They were also convicted under section 326 of IPC (causing grievous hurt) and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Highest degree offences
“I have not come across any other case in which an accused has been given life imprisonment under section 326 of IPC. Usually, the sentence awarded under this section is seven to 10 years. This sentence indicates that the court has considered their offences to be of highest degree,” said a senior lawyer, who did not wish to be named.
To make matters worse for the accused, the judge pronounced that all the accused will undergo all the sentences concurrently, except for life imprisonments. Their life imprisonments will start after they finish other sentences.
And they all cried
After the judge pronounced the judgment he called the convicts to the witness box one after the other. Most of them pleaded that they should be pardoned as they have families and small children. Accused Sanjay Thakkar even wept in the witness box.
All the nine accused started weeping. One of them resisted cops, who finally took the accused out of the courtroom.
All the nine accused were also convicted under charges of unlawful assembly, rioting, causing grievous hurt and obstructing public servants. Four of the accused, Raju Baria, Jagdish Rajput, Shanabai Baria and Shailesh Tadvi will serve concurrent rigorous imprisonment of three years imprisonment under these charges.
Other five accused, Pankaj Gosai, Sanjay Thakkar, Bahadursinh Chauhan, Dinesh Rajbhar and Suresh Vesava were also convicted for setting the bakery afire, trespassing and dacoity. They will undergo 10 years concurrent rigorous imprisonment before starting their life imprisonment.
Defence advocates will appeal verdict
After the Best Bakery judgment, all the defence advocates — Adhik Shirodkar, D S Jambaulikar, Vinayak Bichhu and Mangesh Pawar — unanimously said that they would appeal in the high court.
The Best Bakery case happened in Gujarat. But because of hostile situation in the state, the Supreme Court ordered the re-trial of the case in Mumbai.
However, the Gujarat government remains the prosecution party in the case. This has led to another confusion, whether the appeal should go before the Gujarat High Court as the case is of state of Gujarat or it should be heard by the Mumbai high court as the trial was held in Mumbai.
Senior counsel Adhik Shirodkar said, “The SC has not said anything about the appeal. So we are confused about. But the question of appeal does not arise till we get the judgment copy.”
The copy will be available on March 20.