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Indian Supreme Court issues notice for retrial on killing of Muslims


New Delhi, Press Trust of India:

In a major development, the Supreme Court on Friday decided to intervene in the Best Bakery carnage case and issued notice to the state government and the Centre on a petition seeking fresh investigation and retrial of the case outside Gujarat.

A three-member bench comprising Chief Justice VN Khare and judges SB Sinha and Arun Kumar treated the National Human Rights Commission's (NHRC's) special leave petition as a public interest suit and issued a series of directives.

The Gujarat and central governments were asked to respond within two weeks and the petition would come up for hearing after three weeks.

A fast tract court in Vadodara had acquitted all the 21 accused in what is known as the Best Bakery case, in which 14 people, including the owner of the bakery, were burnt to death on March 1, 2002, at the height of the Sectarian violence in Gujarat. The acquittal was ordered after all key witnesses in the case had turned hostile, allegedly for fear of reprisals.

The bench pointed out that unless the trial was conducted in a free and fair atmosphere, witnesses would not come forward to give evidence. It therefore directed the Gujarat government to give police protection to all witnesses and their families as well as to the victims.

The bench directed the Gujarat government to indicate the action it proposes to take against those persons who had reportedly threatened witnesses against deposing against the accused.

The court also asked the Gujarat government to produce the statement of all witnesses in the Best Bakery case made before the police and their subsequent statements retracting the same.

The bench also asked the central government to indicate what it proposed to do on the recommendation of the Justice Malimath Committee on revamping the criminal justice system.

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