The Gujarat High Court on Tuesday granted bail to Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Atul Vaidya, who was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment in Gulberg Society massacre case of 2002 in Ahmedabad. A division bench, led by justice Abhilasha Kumari, pronounced the judgment while suspending the sentence of Vaidya. The bench said, “We are conscious that the court is obliged to balance the rights of the citizen(s) regarding liberty with the possible impact on society. While weighing both aspects, we do not find that the suspension of the sentence imposed upon the applicant would have an adverse impact or deleterious effect on society, especially when all other factors based on judicial precedents as required by law to suspend the sentence, are present in this case.”
This is the first instance of a convict getting regular bail in the case. His lawyers, including senior counsel Jal Unwala, had argued that only one witness had identified him in the trial court testimony, which was not completely believed by the court. Citing various judgments of the Supreme Court, they said that in cases of rioting, conviction can not be held on the basis of a lone witness.
Besides, it had also been argued that Vaidya had already served one year of imprisonment while his appeal petition was pending in the high court. Vaidya, who was among the 24 convicted in the case, was sentenced by the trial court in June last year while 36 others were acquitted.
During the bail hearing, a Supreme Court appointed-Special Investigation Team (SIT) had raised the issue of delay in filing appeal petitions against the judgment in the high court as the state was yet to respond.