New Delhi: It was a blow for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Monday when the Gujarat high court acquitted the 12 accused in the 2002 assassination of former Home Minister Haren Pandya.
The acquittal comes at the end of a long and controversial trial and the CBI was even criticised for a poor investigation. It also observed that the trial in the special POTA court was a waste of time.
Advocate for the accused Nitya Ramakrishnana said, "The court has observed that the investigation is severely botched up."
"The story of the CBI has not been believed. All accused have been acquitted," added BM Gupta, advocate for the accused.
The court's announcement came as a relief for the families of those earlier convicted for the murder of Pandya.
"After nine and a half years, I now feel there is justice for us," said Owais Machiswala, brother of acquitted Anees Machiswala.
Pandya's family too is satisfied with the judgment. After all, they have all along maintained that the former minister was killed as part of a political conspiracy, and not to avenge the 2002 Gujarat riots as the CBI believed.
Pandya's sister Chhaya Pandya said, "They must really be innocent and so they have been freed. The real killer will be arrested surely. And this is a political murder. Those who actually killed him will be behind bars soon."
With Pandya's family allegeding that he was killed as part of a political conspiracy, the question is who got Pandya killed?
The case so far
- March 26, 2003: Former MOS Home Haren Pandya was shot dead outside Law Garden in Ahmedabad. BJP leader LK Advani said that the underworld could be involved. The case was entrusted to the CBI.
- April 2003: Asghar Ali and four others were arrested from Hyderabad.
- June 2003: POTA applied in Haren Pandya murder case. His family said it was a political murder.
- March 2007: Haren's father, Vitthal Pandya alleged a political conspiracy and wrote to the POTA court, seeking re-investigation.
- June 25, 2007: POTA court delivered it's verdict in which nine of the accused were sentenced to life imprisonment, while two were sentenced to a seven year sentence and one accused got a five year sentence.
- July 2011: The Gujarat high court began hearing the appeal by the convicted persons.