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Published in the 16-30 Nov 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Best Bakery witnesses to get traveling, lodging facilities

By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani

Vadodra: The witnesses in the Best Bakery case will now be given train fare from Gujarat to Mumbai and back. Besides, They have been provided lodging and boarding facilities and there is full arrangement for their security. The retrial of the Best Bakery case is going on in a Mumbai court. Their full expenses will be borne by the Maharashtra government. 

In a communication to the Vadodra police, Mumbai police have said that they have made full lodging and boarding facilities, including security for the witnesses. The witnesses required to go to Mumbai will be provided advance return train tickets by the Mumbai court. They need not spend anything from their own pockets, said Vadodra police commissioner Sudhir Sinha.

Best Bakery witness identifies 7 accused

Mumbai: An eye witness to the Best Bakery carnage on 27 October identified seven accused in the court saying they were members of the riotous crowd that pounced on the bakery workers and tied their hands and feet before torching them on the intervening night of March 1 and 2, 2002. Deposing before designated Judge Abhay Thipsay, Tufail Ahmed Habibullah, who was employed in the bakery, said the rioters came in the wee hours and asked the workers assembled on the terrace of the bakery to come down while assuring them that they would not be harmed. He said the group of people then put up a ladder and helped the workers to climb down. Then they tied their hands and feet and pushed them into the bakery premises. The helpless workers were later assaulted with swords and set afire, the witness told prosecutor Manjula Rao. Tufail said he too was injured in the attack and showed the court, injuries received by him in the neck, head, chest, right leg and palm. Tufail said he remembered having seen three women and four children dropping dead in the attack. He also said that bakery workers Baliram Prasad and Ramesh died in the assault. 

Earlier, a witness in the Best Bakery case who had turned hostile during trial in Vadodara on Oct. 21 came out in support of the prosecution at a special court here. Devendra Thakore said he had earlier acted under family pressure. Thakore, who signed on two panchnamas (on-the-spot report) of recovery of weapons from two accused, said his family asked him to retract his statement after reading newspaper reports about prime witness Zaheera Sheikh turning hostile. In Vadodara, Thakore had denied seeing anything or accompanying police and the accused during the seizure of weapons. Although he today admitted to being with the police during the arms recovery, Thakore could not identify the two accused among the 17 present in the dock. The witness was cross-examined by defence lawyer D.S. Jambaulikar, who alleged that Thakore had appeared as panch in several other cases being investigated by police officers P.P. Kanani and H.D. Baria. Jambaulikar pointed out one of the two panchnamas, where an accused had agreed to hand over a weapon. The police had found two weapons from his house.

However, Vadodara police will take care of the six eyewitnesses currently living under their protection. He said that the full expenditure, including transport, would be borne by the police whenever they are summoned by the Mumbai court, said Sinha.

Of a total of 248 eye witnesses, 42 are government servants (23 police personnel, 19 forensic science experts and fire brigade personnel). The remaining are people living in the neighborhood of the Best Bakery and relatives of the victims.

Sinha said there was no financial problem for the government servant to appear in the court because they are paid travel allowances. "As for private persons, Mumbai police have already intimated to have made their lodging and boarding arrangements," Said Sinha. While Mumbai court would examine all the 248 witnesses, the Vadodara Fast Track Court had examined only 73, out of whom 37 had turned hostile, resulting in acquittal of the accused.

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