Best Bakery case: Bombay HC acquits 5, upholds life term to 4

Bombay High Court

Giving the "benefit of doubt" to five accused in Gujarat's post-Godhra 'Best Bakery' riots case as witnesses failed to identify them, the Bombay High Court today acquitted them but upheld the life sentence awarded to four others by the trial court.

Gujarat riots: Will the victims get justice?

A division bench of Justices V M Kanade and P D Kode passed its order on the appeals filed by nine accused challenging their conviction and life sentence handed down by the trial court in 2006 for their alleged involvement in the Best Bakery riots that claimed 14 lives and left several others wounded.

On March 1, 2002, two days after the carnage in which 59 kar sevaks were burnt alive in Sabarmati Express at Godhra, a mob had attacked the Best Bakery in Vadodara, looting and burning it down and killing 14 people.

The mob targeted the Muslims taking shelter inside, including the Sheikh family which ran the bakery. Three Hindu workers employed at the bakery were also killed.

The high court allowed the appeals filed by five of the nine accused - Rajubhai Baria, Pankaj Gosavi, Jagdish Rajput, Suresh alias Lalo Devjibhai Vasava, and Shailesh Tadvi, saying there was no evidence against them. The judges said none of the witnesses had attributed any role to them during the riots.

"These five accused should be given the benefit of doubt as no witness has identified them as part of the mob that attacked Best Bakery," the bench noted.

Relying heavily on the statements of four injured eyewitnesses--Tufil Ahmed Siddiqui, Raees Khan, Shahzad Khan Pathan and Shailun Khan Pathan--employees at the bakery, the court upheld the conviction and life sentence awarded to the remaining four accused - Sanjay Thakkar, Bahadur Singh Chauhan, Sanabhai Baria and Dinesh Rajbhar.

"The witnesses have identified these four accused as carrying swords, soda bottles and kerosene bottles and attacking them. They have survived through the skin of their teeth and escaped from the clutches of death. Considering the ordeal they have undergone, it is a miracle they survived," the court said.

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