Trouble does not seem to end for the family of Zahira Sheikh, the prime witness in the Best Bakery case. The prosecution recently approached the special court seeking that Zahira’s mother Sehrunissa be declared an absconder.
Special judge AM Thipsay had convicted her on May 16 this year for repeatedly lying under oath while deposing as a witness in the retrial of the main Best Bakery case. She is presently not traceable.
Public prosecutor Anoop Pandey made an application before special judge on November 20 seeking that a fresh warrant be issued against Sehrunissa and the Detection of Crime Branch (DCB) of Vadodara be directed to submit action taken report. If the DCB fails to find her once again, then issue proclamation against her declaring her as an absconder.
|On March 1, 2002, two days after the Godhra carnage, a mob attacked Best Bakery in the Hanuman Tekri area of Vadodara. Hanuman Tekri is a poor, lower middle-class neighbourhood. Predominantly Hindu, very few Muslim families live here. The mob looted and burnt the bakery, killing 14 people in a period of 12 hours. The mob targeted the Muslims inside including the Sheikh family which ran the bakery. Three Hindu workers who worked at the bakery were also killed.|
On May 16, Judge Thipsay had sentenced Sehrunissa to three months of rigorous imprisonment while holding her guilty for giving false evidence during the retrial into the Best Bakery carnage case.
The court had also imposed a fine of Rs 500 on her defaulting, which she would have to undergo additional imprisonment of ten days.
The court stayed her sentence for a month to allow her to approach the High Court to challenge the conviction. As the HC did not stay the sentence, Judge Thipsay had directed in June that she be taken in custody immediately. However, Sehrunissa went missing following which warrant was issued against her.
As she was not traceable in Mumbai, the warrant was sent to DCB, Vadodara. A report was submitted by the DCB, Vadodara, before Judge Thipsay that she is nowhere in Gujarat too. The DCB had recorded statements of Heena, who is wife of Sehrunissa’s deceased son Nafitulla.
According to Heena’s statement, the family has not seen or met Sehrunissa since June. Statement of one Kanaiyah, who resides near the Sheikh family in Vadodara was also recorded. He told the DCB that even he has not seen Sehrunissa.
Failing to trace her, the DCB, Vadodara returned the warrant to special court stating that they have not been able to execute it.
Umesh Deshpande, advocate for Sheikh family told HT that he too has no contact with Sehrunissa. “I cannot make her present before the court as even her family does not know where she has disappeared,” said Deshpande.
Earlier, Zahira had filed a review petition (in October) before the Supreme Court for review for her sentence. The SC had sentenced her to simple imprisonment of one year and imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 for contempt for repeatedly changing her statements before the court.
Failing to pay fine, she has to undergo additional one-year’s imprisonment. She has sought quashing of the fine. The petition is likely to come up for hearing later this month, said her advocate Deshpande.
Zahira too was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment of three months with a fine of Rs 500 by Judge Thipsay in June for changing her statements. She was taken in custody after she surrendered before the special court on March 10.