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Published in the 1-15 Aug 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Ode case resembles Best Bakery
Like the Best Bakery case, fingers are being pointed at the role of the public prosecutor and the police in the Ode village massacre case.

By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani

Ahmedabad: The similarities between the Best Bakery case and the Ode village massacre case do not end at the eyewitness accounts of Zahira Sheikh and Rehana Vora only. Like the Best Bakery case, the role of the public prosecutor and the police in the Ode village massacre case was dubious. The Supreme Court has stayed the trial of the Ode case till August 3.

Two separate FIRs were registered in the case on March 1, 2002 and March 5, 2002 at the Khambholaj police station by Rafiq Mohammad Khalifa and Rehana Vora. Twenty seven persons were burnt to death at Ode, almost double the number of those killed in the Best Bakery case.

The [late] public prosecutor in the Ode case, VG Purohit, and the Best Bakery case prosecutor both were famous for their Sangh affiliations.

Purohit allegedly did not argue strongly against the bail plea of the 95 accused in the Ode case. He stated that he had "no objection to the accused getting bail since forensic report did not confirm the gender of the burnt bodies. Even the DNA test had not been done". Purohit was appointed a fast track court judge at Chhota Udepur and later died of cardiac arrest.

The lawyer of the victims, TH Saiyed, had said during the initial bail hearing that "there was prima facie evidence against the accused, but it was on account of the complicity of the police and the public prosecutor that the accused got bail."

Rehana had named seven persons and a mob of 500 in her complaint. The police arrested seven persons from the ‘unidentified’ mob of 500 and produced them for remand while the seven persons identified by Rehana remained at large, Saiyed said, adding that the police produced the seven accused named by Rehana "without arresting them." 

"Moreover, the accused were granted interim bail for the Mahashivratri festival with the consent of the public prosecutor," Saiyed added.

Besides, no separate FIR was registered about an incident at Surivali Bhagol on March 2, when an elderly man, Ghulam Rasool Saiyed, was burnt alive by a mob during curfew.

BD Vaghela, who was superintendent of police during the riots, admitted that a separate FIR was not registered because they took the decision after advice from the public prosecutor. All the 95 persons arrested and chargesheeted for rioting and murder were given bail by the sessions court.

Like the Best Bakery case, many accused are missing in Ode case also. Two have fled abroad. The police ignored the fact that many of the accused had stopped reporting to the Khambholaj police station for a long time. Their passports were not impounded while granting them bail.
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