The comments of the Gujarat High Court Judgment on the Best Bakery case have negated the process of justice
by ridiculing those seeking justice, something perhaps unprecedented in the history of Independent India.
If there was any hesitancy about the justification for demanding trial of such cases outside Gujarat, then this judgment ought to remove the last vestige of any such doubts. We knew it is not possible to get justice from the Government and the Police in Gujarat. Now this judgment has cast an indelible shadow on Gujarat’s criminal justice system too in no uncertain terms.
At no stage has the verdict shown any concern or regret, let alone compassion, on the heinous crime that was Best Bakery. Neither was there any sympathy shown to the victims of this most brutal of all crimes.
Instead of condemning this unfortunate state of affairs, the Hon’ble Court has chosen to transgress the limits of judicial propriety and fairness by coming down heavily on those very activists - holding the cause of justice at heart - as "anti-social and anti-national". Any right-minded person or group would have lauded these activists for their enormous sense of duty as fellow human beings and for acting so nobly at great risk to themselves.
The Court had, further, nothing to say about the questionable judgment of the lower court, which apart from being a travesty of justice had contained gratuitous remarks on issues of no relevance. The High Court verdict is found to be totally unconcerned about its primary task at hand, that is, the delivery of justice to victims of the Best Bakery tragedy.
An obvious effort to play to the gallery was the most unwarranted and uncalled for remarks on those displaced and uprooted seeking justice in the Narmada dam issue. These remarks were out of context and speak of a deliberate effort to deviate from the task at hand, namely rendering justice to the victims of the macabre and gory incident that was Best Bakery.
Comments from the Judgement
Some extracts from the judgement need no commentary from us but some explanation from the Court may be required and from those who think that this judgment is a fine piece of jurisprudence (numbers indicate Para numbers from the judgment. The grammar and language are from the original.):
"7 …. There seems to be a definite design and conspiracy to malign the people by misusing this witness Zahirabibi, who is hardly 19 years old. She can easily fall in prey of anyone and play in the dirty hands of antisocial and anti-national elements…
"15 …. It appears that an attempt is made by the journalists/human rights activists and advocate Teesta Setalvad and Mihir Desai respectively of the Citizens for Justice and Peace to have parallel investigating agency whereas the statutory authority is investigating any case is Police, CBI or any other agency established under the statute. We do not know how far it is proper. But we can certainly state that it is not permissible under the law…."
"21 …Certain elements failed elsewhere, at all levels, and to obstruct the development and progress of the State, are trying to misuse the process of the law, so far they have not fully succeeded. Some time back in the name of environment, matter was filed before the Apex Court in Narmada matter, which was dismissed by the Apex Court. However, because of ex-parte and interim order, they were successful in causing huge loss, running into thousands of crores of rupees to the State because of the delay in the construction of the dam. Ultimately, such huge losses had to be suffered by the people of the State for no fault of theirs. Gujarat is very much part and parcel of our Nation and any loss to the State means loss to the Nation.Once again, almost similar attempt is made not only to cause indirect financial loss to the State but to create rift between the two communities and spread hatred in the people of the State. Financial loss can be recovered at any time but it is very difficult to rebuild the confidence, faith and harmony between people of the two communities. This times none else but the judiciary of the State and the system as a whole, which is really a matter of grave concern. Most unfortunate part it is that, some people within the State and the Nation, without realising the pros and cons of it, unnecessarily giving undue importance to such elements, who are misusing poor persons like Zahira and others….
….. It is most unfortunate that attempt is made to create a false impression not only in the other states but also in the world that the Gujarat is a terrorist state, which is factually wrong…
…. It would be much better if wise people of both the communities sit together, think it in a proper manner, and work out in the right direction a plan, so that, in future, such riots do not take place. Perhaps, Lok Adalat, may be the best medium to solve such problems forever. It will not be out of context to state that one of us (B.J.Shethna, J.) witnessed the settlement of almost similar problem at Surat in a Lok Adalat held on 2.10.2003 on the birthday of the Father of our Nation, Shri Mahatma Gandhi…."
It is anybody’s guess what is the disposition of the judiciary of a secular country, which tries to suggest that those who attacked and burnt Best Bakery could have saved some of them if they knew they were Hindus. The following quote is eloquent.
"35 …. When they were knowing that at least three Hindus working and staying in the Best Bakery and told them that they were Hindus, then they would not have killed at least those three persons of their own community…."
The Hon’ble Court has taken to task those dedicated activists who were, and are, trying to ensure fairplay and justice, it however has nothing to say on the terribly partisan role-played by the Police and the Government of Gujarat. Also, it has acquitted those accused. Is it not then the duty of the Court now to direct the Police to find the real culprits? Again, instead of condemning the last eight pages of the uncalled for comments from the trial court’s judgment at Vadodara, this judgment has added further such absurd comments in what can be only termed as a distortion and perversion of the judicial process. The judgement of the trial court in Vadodara was received as a tragedy by those concerned with human rights and justice. This High Court’s judgment, it is regretted, has heightened the tragedy into a farce.
Kirit Bhatt, Dr. J. S. Bandukwala, Rohit Prajapati, Sohansingh Miglani, Trupti Shah, Chinu Srinivasan, Renu Khanna, Tapan Dasgupta, Deeptha Achar, Nandini Manjrekar, Johannes Manjrekar. (Human Rights Activists, Vadodara, Gujarat)
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