Haren Pandya murder case: SC reserves verdict on PIL seeking fresh probe

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its verdict on a plea seeking fresh probe into the murder of former Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya in the then Narendra Modi government.

On March 2003, two unidentified assailants shot Pandya dead while he was in his car outside Ahmedabad’s Law Garden.

A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra reserved the order on a plea filed by an NGO Central for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) sought inquiry against the officers who conducted the earlier investigation and hold the errant officials accountable for the botched up investigation into the murder of Pandya.

The plea submitted that the earlier investigation was carried out in a highly unsatisfactory way. There may be possibly a shielding of high place officials.

While appearing for the CPIL, senior advocate Shanti Bhushan told the apex court: “New pieces of information that have come to light regarding the possibility of IPS officers including DG Vanzara being involved in the conspiracy to kill Haren Pandya clearly show that the involvement of the senior functionaries of the police as well as possible complicity of political figures. The investigation has clearly been “botched” to benefit powerful figures in the administration.”

On February 8, a bench headed by Justice AK Sikri said that another bench is seized of similar matters and this case should also be heard by the same bench.

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“Court is seized of the matter, let this be heard by that court,” said Justice Sikri.

“Recently, startling new information has been provided by Azam Khan, a witness in the trial in encounters of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife Kauser Bi and his associate Tulsiram Prajapati. Although on December 21, 2018, the special CBI court acquitted all the accused in the case and judgement noted that the prosecution of the case was highly unsatisfactory,” the plea said.

Azam Khan was produced as a prosecution witness and during his examination before the trial court on November 3, 2018 revealed that Sohrabuddin had told him that a contract to kill Haren Pandya had been given to him by a Gujarat cadre IPS officer DG Vanzara and that Sohrabuddin’s associate Tulsiram Prajapati along with one Naeem and a Shahid Rampuri had murdered Haren Pandya in pursuance of that contract. DG Vanzara, who had allegedly given the contract, was later made an accused in the fake encounters of Sohrabuddin as well as Tulsiram Prajapati but was discharged by the trial court in 2017.

The petition also contended that Azam Khan also revealed that he had given this information to the CBI in 2010 (when an appeal in Haren Pandya’s murder was pending before the High Court of Gujarat) but the CBI did not pay any heed to this information and told him to keep quiet about it as it would lead to problems for the investigating agency. All this proves that the agency was not interested in reaching the truth of the matter and in fact, was working actively to conceal the truth.

The petition also stated that Pandya’s father, Late Vithalbhai Pandya as well as Haren Pandya’s wife, Jagrutiben Pandya, had also raised serious doubts about the manner in which the investigation had been carried out by the CBI and called the murder of his son a political conspiracy. Vithalbhai Pandya had alleged that the investigating agency had not called several witnesses who could have been instrumental in the investigation including himself as well as Haren Pandya’s wife.