AHMEDABAD: Slamming the CBI for its “botched up” and “blinkered” investigations, the Gujarat High Court on Monday dropped murder charges against the 12 accused in the killing of former minister Haren Pandya eight years ago.
The Court while acquitting the 12 persons of the murder charges however upheld the trial court’s decision to convict them for criminal conspiracy, attempt to murder and offences under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
Pandya, who was a former minister of state for home in a BJP government and was once close to Chief Minister Narendra Modi, was shot dead on March 26, 2003 near Law Garden area of the city when he was out for a morning walk. According to CBI, Pandya was murdered to avenge the 2002 communal riots.
All the 12 accused except key conspirator Mohammad Asgar Ali are likely to be released from jail as they had been behind bars since 2003 as far as Pandya murder case was concerned, said special public prosecutor J M Panchal. Ali will be in prison for some more time. The division bench of justices D H Waghela and J C Upadhyaya came down heavily on CBI, terming its investigation as “botched up” and “blinkered” that left a lot to be desired.
“The charge for the offence punishable under section 302 of IPC is held to have not been proved beyond reasonable doubt,” the court said. Since conviction for section 302 (murder) or 302 read with 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy) could not survive, the orders of sentence based on those charges are set aside and to that extent, the appeals are partly allowed, it said. Criticising the CBI, the court observed, “What clearly stands out from the record of the present case is that the investigation in the case of murder of Haren Pandya has all throughout been botched up and blinkered and has left a lot to be desired.”Reacting to the verdict, state government spokesperson Jaynarayan Vyas said, “We hope that CBI ensures that real culprits are brought to the book and the matter is appropriately taken up at the level of highest court in this country.” (PTI)