Terming as "inadequate" the Rs 2000 compensation given by Gujarat government to four key witnesses in the post-Godhra 'Best Bakery' riots case, the Bombay high court today hiked it to Rs 3 lakh, considering their "ordeal".
The high court had yesterday heavily relied upon the testimonies of the four employees of the bakery, who had received grievous injuries during the riots, to uphold life sentence to four accused in the case in which five others were acquitted for want of evidence.
"Compensation given to these witnesses is inadequate taking into consideration the ordeal they have undergone. Hence we direct Gujarat government to deposit compensation of Rs three lakh each to these four eyewitnesses," a division bench of justices VM Kanade and PD Kode ordered.
Noting that a number of witnesses had turned hostile in the case, the court said it was high time that the state government developed a mechanism for providing protection to witnesses.
Relying on statements of four injured eyewitnesses--Tufil Ahmed Siddiqui, Raees Khan, Shahzad Khan Pathan and Shailun Khan Pathan-- the court had upheld the conviction and life sentence awarded to the four accused - Sanjay Thakkar, Bahadur Singh Chauhan, Sanabhai Baria and Dinesh Rajbhar.
It had, however, reversed the conviction of five other accused - Rajubhai Baria, Pankaj Gosavi, Jagdish Rajput, Suresh alias Lalo Devjibhai Vasava and Shailesh Tadvi- after observing that no witnesses identified them as part of the mob that attacked Best Bakery and no specific role was attributed to them.
On March 1, 2002, two days after the carnage in which 59 kar sevaks were burnt alive in Sabarmati Express at Godhra, a mob had attacked Best Bakery in Vadodara, looting and burning it down and killing 14 people. The mob targeted the Muslims taking shelter inside, including the Sheikh family which ran the bakery. Three Hindu workers employed at the bakery were also killed.
Apart from these four eyewitnesses, the bench also ordered a compensation of Rs 3 lakh to key prosecution witness Yasmeen Shaikh.