The Supreme Court Friday fixed February 11 for hearing a plea filed by an NGO seeking re-investigation into the murder of former Gujarat minister Haren Pandya on the ground that some new facts have surfaced after the trial. A bench of Justices A K Sikri and S Abdul Nazeer said that an appeal arising out of this case has been already heard by a different bench. "It will be appropriate if the same bench hears this petition," the bench said and posted the matter for hearing on February 11. The bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra had on January 31 reserved its verdict in the appeal by CBI against Gujarat High Court's acquittal of all the accused. Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner NGO CPIL said that four new facts have surfaced after the trial and re-investigation needs to be ordered.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre questioned the locus of the petition in the case. The NGO had moved the apex court last month seeking a court-monitored investigation into the murder. Pandya was a minister of state for home in the then Narendra Modi government in Gujarat. He was shot dead on March 26, 2003, in Ahmedabad near Law Garden area of the city during morning walk. The petition said that there was a need for the fresh probe in the case as some "startling information" has recently come to light which needs to be looked into. "New pieces of information that have come to light regarding the possibility of IPS officers including D G Vanzara being involved in the conspiracy to kill Pandya clearly show that the involvement of the senior functionaries of the police as well as possible complicity of political figures," the petition claimed.
Referring to a recent testimony of a witness in Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, the plea claimed that witness has revealed that during his deposition Sohrabuddin had told him that Pandya was murdered as a part of a contract killing for which the contract was given by Vanzara. "He also reveals that Sohrabuddin's associate Tulsiram Prajapati along with two others had murdered Pandya as part of that contract. In his deposition he mentions that he had already given this information to CBI in 2010," the plea claimed. The NGO has made Ministry of Home Affairs and CBI as parties in the case. It has sought production of the statement of Vanzara to the CBI and an "inquiry into the circumstances in which an identity sketch of the assassin drawn in 2003 that matches Tulsiram Prajapati more than the accused put on trial and the nature of investigation done".
The plea also sought an inquiry against the officers who conducted the earlier investigation and hold the errant officials accountable for the "botched up" probe. A special PoTA (Prevention of Terrorist Activities) court had in 2007 convicted all the 12 accused in the case who were awarded life imprisonment. However, on August 29, 2011, the Gujarat High Court had slammed CBI for the probe which it said was "washed up" and "blinkered", and acquitted all the accused from the charge of murdering Pandya. CBI has moved the apex court challenging the acquittal in 2012.