The Supreme Court on Friday convicted all 12 accused in the murder of former Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya, PTI reported. The top court set aside a Gujarat High Court judgement acquitting all the accused.
Pandya, who was the Home Minister in the Gujarat government, was shot dead on March 26, 2003 in Ahmedabad while he was out on a morning walk, according to The Indian Express. According to the CBI, Pandya was murdered to avenge the 2002 communal riots in the state.
The bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra was pronouncing the verdict on appeals filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Gujarat government challenging the acquittal of the 12 accused by the Gujarat High Court in 2011, Live Law reported. The bench had reserved its order on January 31.
The bench also dismissed a fresh plea filed by NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation which sought court-monitored investigation into the murder. The top court also imposed Rs 50,000 fine on the NGO and said it will not entertain any further petition in the case.
A trial court had convicted 12 people for the murder of Pandya in June 2007. However, the High Court acquitted all of them in 2011, saying the investigation was botched and misdirected. The High Court, however, upheld the trial court’s decision to convict them on charges of criminal conspiracy, attempt to murder and for the offences under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, PTI reported.
The Supreme Court had admitted the appeals of the CBI and the state police against the High Court’s judgement on January 5, 2012.
Last year, a key witness in the 2005 Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case had alleged in a trial court in Mumbai that former Gujarat police officer DG Vanzara had given Sheikh a contract to kill Pandya.