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9 get life term in Best Bakery case; perjury notice to Zahira
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, February 24
Nine of the 21 accused in Gujarat's Best Bakery carnage were today convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by a city special court, which conducted the retrial on the order of the Supreme Court.

Mr Abhay Thipsay, judge of the Mumbai Sessions Court, who heard the case after it was transferred here from Gujarat, found the nine guilty of burning 14 persons to death inside Best Bakery at Vadodara in the aftermath of the Godhra carnage four years ago.

The names of those convicted are Rajubhai Dhamirbhai Baria, Pankaj Virendragir Gosai, Bahadursinh Chauhan alias Jitu, Jagdish Chunilal Rajput, Dinesh Fulchand Rajbhar, Shanabhai Chimanbhai Baria, Shailesh Anupbhai Tadvi, Suresh, alias Lalo Devjibhai Vasava and Sanjay Thakker. Eight others were acquitted, while four others declared absconders are yet to be traced.

Those who have been acquitted are Yogesh, alias Painter Laxmansinh Varma, Harish, alias Tino Virendragir Gosai, Mahendra, alias Langado, Pratapsinh Solanki, Yasin Alibhai Khokar, Tulsi Bhikabhai Tadvi, Kamlesh Bhikabhai Tadvi and Ravi Chauhan.

The judge said he was not awarding capital punishment to the convicts because it could not be ascertained what were their specific roles in the crime.

The court also ordered perjury charges to be brought against prime witness Zahira Sheikh and others. Sheikh, who was gang-raped by the accused in the case, changed her testimony before a fast-track court in Gujarat, which resulted in all accused in the case being acquitted.

Subsequently, Zahira alleged that she was threatened by the local BJP MLA Madhu Shrivastava and his cousin, Congress councillor Chandrakant Shrivastava into changing her testimony. She had then demanded that the case be transferred out of Gujarat. However, Zahira continued changing her stance and she along with her relatives were termed hostile witnesses in November 2004.

The court also cleared charges against activist Teesta Seetalvad, who was instrumental in bringing the Best Bakery case to light.

Apart from Zahira Sheikh, her brothers Nafisullah and Nasibullah, her mother Sehrunissa and sister Sahira had turned hostile. Eleven of the 14 persons, who were burnt to death, were relatives of the Sheikhs. Only Zahira’s cousin Yasminbanu Sheikh stuck to her original stand. Her testimony was among those that were used to convict the nine accused.

Issuing show-cause notices to all witnesses, who had turned hostile, the court asked them why they should not be prosecuted for perjury. The notices are made returnable on March 20. 


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