The Gujarat High Court on Friday quashed the appointment of Raghuvir Pandya as Vadodara district government pleader after three petitions sought his removal citing the Supreme Court’s adverse remarks against him in the 2002 Best Bakery case. The judgment also set a precedent for appointment of public prosecutors in the state.
Pandya was public prosecutor in the 2002 case, involving an incident in which 14 people were burnt alive in the post-Godhra riots. The trial court had acquitted all 21 accused, an order which was upheld by the Gujarat High Court. Later, the Supreme Court ordered a fresh trial in 2004 and transferred the case to Mumbai.
In the same order, the apex court made adverse remarks against Pandya, who was in-charge of the trial, for the manner in which he conducted it.
“The public prosecutor appears to have acted more as a defence counsel than one whose duty was to present the truth before the court… This unusual conduct by the prosecutor should have been seriously taken note of by the trial court and also by the high court…” were among some of the remarks the apex court made.
According to petitioners, despite such scathing remarks, Pandya was appointed public prosecutor twice between March 2005 and March 2008, and again in May 2015 for two years. The petitions were filed by Vadodara-based activists and they alleged that “his appointment was political”.
Pandya, in his defence, said, “The state government had never lost the confidence in me even after the SC remark and, so far, as suitability is concerned, the same was assessed in my favour even after the judgment delivery by the Supreme Court.” However, Justice J B Pardiwala was not impressed with his submission.
The judgment mentioned, “Prima facie, it appears that the state overlooked the remarks passed by the Supreme Court.”
Quashing Pandya’s appointment, the single judge bench of J B Pardiwala observed that the district judge and concerned authorities should form an opinion on candidates for the post and after which the government must choose the “fittest candidate”.