The Supreme Court has granted bail to four men convicted in connection with the 2002 riots in Gujarat’s Naroda Patiya and released one on interim bail. The court has also expressed doubts on the conviction of some of them.
Those granted bail are Umeshbhai Surabhai Bharwad, Rajkumar, Padmendrasinh Jaswantsinh Rajput and Harshad.
The bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and Ajay Rastogi granted interim bail to Prakashbhai Sureshbhai Rathod from January 28 to February 15 to enable him to attend his daughter’s wedding. Bharwad was acquitted by the trial court but this was reversed by the High Court which relied on the statement of two police officers.
He contended that he was not named in the FIR, and that the police officers named him four days after the incident and had stated that he was seen in a crowd of around 15,000 people and that no identification parade was conducted for him.
Granting him bail, the Supreme Court said, “The High Court has reversed the acquittal only on the basis of evidence of two police witnesses. Prima facie, we find that the approach of the High Court is debatable.”
The court also took note of the fact Bharwad was undergoing treatment for HIV. In the case of Rajkumar and Rajput, whose acquittals by trial court were also reversed by the High Court based on witnesses that established his presence at the scene of offence, the Supreme Court said it found “this approach to be doubtful especially when the witnesses relied upon by the prosecution are police officials and no identification parade of this applicant was conducted during the investigation by the police”.
As for Harshad, the court noted that he had been convicted for an offence which carried a maximum sentence of 10 years and that he had already undergone more than 5 years of “actual imprisonment”.