The Supreme Court Friday fixed February 11 for hearing a fresh plea filed by an NGO seeking re-investigation into the murder of former Gujarat home minister Haren Pandya in March 2003.
The former Gujarat home minister was murdered in Ahmedabad, Gujarat by two unidentified assailants when he was sitting in his car after a morning walk in the Law Garden area. He was traced in his car by his personal assistant Nilesh Bhatt, two hours after he was shot. While a special POTA court sentenced the main accused from Hyderabad, Asgar Ali, to life imprisonment, seven others were also held guilty of murder and conspiracy.
Former deputy prime minister Lal Krishna Advani and the then chief minister Narendra Modi were criticised for not providing proper security cover to Pandya despite life threats. The petitioners in the murder case had alleged that Azam Khan- a witness in the encounter of gangster Sohrabuddin Sheikh had told a Mumbai court during a trial that: “Sheikh had told him that Mr Haren Pandya was murdered as a part of a contract killing…” involving a senior IPS officer. According to Khan, the investigating officer had refused to record the statement back in 2010.
Haren’s wife, Jagruti Pandya, had raised questions over the initial probe which was handled by Ahmedabad City Detection of Crime Branch under now-retired Deputy Commissioner of Police DG Vanzara.
Pandya, who represented the Ellis Bridge constituency in Ahmedabad, was a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). He was also elected as the Municipal Councillor of Paldi area in Ahmedabad and was a strong supporter of the party, especially of the then chief minister Keshubhai Patel.
Pandya was made home minister during the tenure of Patel as CM in 1998 when BJP came to power in Gujarat. When Modi took over the regime, he was made the Minister of state for revenue, however Pandya resigned from the post in 2003 fearing denial of a ticket for the 2002 Lok Sabha elections. Later, however, he was made the BJP’s national executive.
The CBI had named 15 accused in Pandya’s murder and a trial court had convicted 12 of them on June 25, 2007. Later however in August 2011, the Gujarat High Court acquitted all of them citing lack of evidence.