A petition filed in the Supreme Court has sought a fresh, court-monitored probe into the murder of former Gujarat home minister Haren Pandya in March 2003.
The plea by NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) says the need for a fresh probe had arisen in view of “some startling information that has recently come to light and has been extensively reported by the media regarding Mr Haren Pandya’s murder, information which was never investigated into by the investigating agency, the CBI”.
It said Azam Khan – a witness in the encounter case of gangster Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife Kauser Bi, and associate Tulsiram Prajapati – had told a Mumbai court during the trial in the case that “Sheikh had told him that Mr Haren Pandya was murdered as a part of a contract killing…” involving a senior IPS officer.
In December 2018, the Mumbai court had acquitted all the accused in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case. It had earlier discharged some of the other accused in the case.
In the Haren Pandya case, the CBI had named 15 accused. Twelve of them were convicted by the trial court on June 25, 2007.
But the Gujarat High Court acquitted all of them in August 2011, citing lack of evidence.
The CPIL petition points out that the High Court, while setting free the accused, had criticised the investigation.
The petition contended the HC had said that “what clearly stands out from the record of the present case is that the investigation in the case of murder of Shri Haren Pandya has all throughout been botched up and blinkered and has left a lot to be desired. The investigating officers concerned ought to be held accountable for their ineptitude resulting into injustice, huge harassment of many persons concerned and enormous waste of public resources and public time of the courts”.
The petition said that “public disquiet has been unabated regarding the highly unsatisfactory way in which the investigation was carried out”, and that “there may be possibly a shielding of high place officials”.
The CBI’s appeal against the HC verdict in the Pandya case is pending before the apex court.