Best Bakery verdict: Justice delivered

By: Sandeep B
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The Bombay High Court's verdict on the Best Bakery case delivered on Jul 9 is in many ways a landmark judgment. The hearing, which went on continuously for a record 126 days starting on Mar 5, was followed by the prosecution proceedings beginning on Jun 19 up to Jul 1. The Best Bakery trial is also unique in another respect: it was held in open court in the interest of transparency, and when it ended on Jul 9, it ultimately pulled the curtains down on a case that was characterised by innumerable delays, vile speculation, innuendo and media circus. The Bombay High Court thus rightfully deserves our encomiums.

The judgment also delivers another much-needed nail in the coffin of the Gujarat riots cottage industry, whose only goal is a premeditated witch-hunt of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

The decade-long events show us that Best Bakery was one of the "five-star" cases showcased by the secular-left-liberal-activist galaxy as "evidence" of Modi's wrongdoing. And the Face of the Best Bakery case was Zaheera Sheikh who had set its wheels in motion by filing an FIR on Mar 2, 2002. As the case unravelled over time, one fact clearly emerged as we shall soon see.

An important reason the Best Bakery case trudged along for so many years is the fact that a group of agenda-driven activists didn't want the case to end. Endless court adjournments and filing new appeals ensure maximum milking of the tragedy of the riots for activists who feast on human misery.

The fact that such cynical games were successful to a great extent can be gauged by the fact that even the courts were led astray by activist-noise. Justice PD Kode who delivered the Jul 9 verdict, had sharp words for the lower court, which had previously adjudged this case. Justice Kode criticised the lower court's observation that Zaheera Sheikh appeared to have been given monetary inducements "without mentioning who had paid them," and that such observations were "uncalled for," and that "sometimes words harm more than weapons and this is what happened in this case."

The highlights of the judgment are noteworthy:
- Of the nine accused, four were awarded life sentence and the rest acquitted.
- Four eyewitnesses were awarded a compensation of Rs 3 Lakh.
- Yasmeen Bano Sheikh, Zaheera Sheikh's estranged sister-in-law was also awarded Rs 3 Lakh as recognition of her courage to speak the truth about both spurious activists and rioters.
- The lower court's order of compoundable punishment to the accused was dismissed.
- Adverse remarks by the lower court against both the Gujarat state and defence lawyers have been expunged.

However, the most important aspect of the judgment relates to Teesta Setalvad, the self-styled activist and champion of "communal" justice. The tale of Teesta's tactics is long, lurid and well-known.

Her so-called "star" witness Zaheera Sheikh turned against her and narrated in court how Teesta tutored her to give false testimony and later, intimidated her. Yasmeen Bano Sheikh, the prosecution witness in her affidavit to Bombay High Court, notes how Teesta tutored her to give false deposition against the accused because Teesta had promised her large sums of money to lie in court.

Rais Khan, a former aide of Teesta who has brought legal proceedings against Teesta recounts in his Sept 2011 affidavit how she transported Zaheera, Yasmeen and several other witnesses to Bhindi Bazaar in Mumbai and kept them under virtual house imprisonment. The affidavit makes for a horrific reading of Teesta's "quest" for justice-cooking up false riot incidents, fabricating evidence and filing identical and false affidavits. What follows is even worse. In his Oct 2011 request to the Bombay High Court pleading protection for his life, Rais Khan, narrates how Teesta sent him death threats by dispatching gangs of Muslim fundamentalists to his house repeatedly. In yet another police complaint, Rais Khan alleges that she hacked into his email account.

This long list of Teesta's criminal skullduggery and intentional, recurring attempts to mislead the courts is thus the singular strand that consistently runs throughout the entire Best Bakery case. It is a testimony to the wisdom of the Bombay High Court, which dismissed her intervention application noting that "since the Court has not made any observations against her, it requires to be dismissed." The High Court also deserves our heartfelt gratitude for ordering that external "interference should stop from now on." That this order is the consequence of Teesta's justice-subversion tactics is obvious and completely stops her from embarking on future shenanigans.

Equally, the verdict once again exonerates Narendra Modi who has already been given the clean chit more than once and most recently, by the Supreme Court-appointed SIT.

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