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Gujarat riots: Mumbai court acquits 2 in Best Bakery case

A local court in Mumbai on Tuesday acquitted two persons, who were accused of being part of a mob that burnt 14 people alive inside the Best Bakery shop of Vadodara, during the 2002 post-Godhra riots in Gujarat.

The order was passed by Special Central Bureau of Investigation judge M.G. Deshpande.

Pronouncing Harshad Solanki and Mafat Gohil as not guilty, the Special CBI Court ordered their immediate release in the case.

The case dated back to March 1, 2002, when a mob had burnt down a bakery in Vadodara during the Gujarat riots, killing 14 people alive. 

A complaint was lodged by bakery owner’s daughter, Zaheera Sheikh against 21 people.

The local police arrested all the accused and a fast-track court at Vadodara had conducted the trial against them. Complainant Zaheera, along with other key witnesses, turned hostile during the proceedings. This led to the acquittal of 19 accused in June 2003 due to lack of evidence. 

Solanki and Gohil, who were the remaining accused in the case, were discharged. 

Social activist Teesta Setalvad and Zaheera Sheikh moved the Supreme Court, which directed a re-trial of the case in 2004 and transferred the case to Mumbai to ensure fairness and justice. 

While the other accused were being tried, Solanki and Gohil were arrested in the Ajmer blast case. In view of this, they were shown as absconding in the Best Bakery case. 

Mumbai Police took them in custody on December 13, 2013. They have remained behind the bars for the last 10 years.

Out of the 19 accused, who faced trial in Mumbai, nine were convicted. 

The prosecution could only bring 10 witnesses to prove the alleged role of Solanki and Gohil in the case. Some of the officers investigating the case had also passed away. 

The lawyers representing the accused did not challenge the deaths that took place in the Best Bakery case. 

The three eyewitnesses in the case could not identify Solanki, however, one eyewitness reportedly recognised Gohil. 

The counsel for the accused had argued that since the eyewitness used to stay in the same neighbourhood as Gohil, the chances of them recognising each other were high, even after 21 years.

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