In Gujarat’s 2002 Best Bakery case, the Mumbai session court issued an acquittal on Tuesday for two individuals named Harshad Solanki and Mafat Gohil.
The court presided over by Additional Sessions Judge MG Deshpande, cleared Solanki and Gohil of all charges, including murder, destruction of evidence, and attempt to murder, as per media reports.
It should be noted that both Solanki and Gohil had been on the run while the other defendants were being tried. Once they were apprehended, a separate trial was initiated for them.
The Best Bakery case refers to a tragic incident that occurred on March 1, 2002, in Vadodara, Gujarat. During this episode, a mob consisting of approximately 1,000 individuals from the Hindu community attacked the Best Bakery, resulting in the deaths of 14 people. Among the victims were 11 Muslims and three Hindu employees, and several others sustained injuries.
The attack on Best Bakery was part of a larger wave of violence targeted against Muslims that swept through Gujarat in 2002. These violent incidents led to widespread destruction, loss of life, and communal tensions in the state.
Initially, the Gujarat police conducted the investigation into the Best Bakery case. However, their inquiry was heavily criticized for being biased and incomplete, raising concerns about the investigation’s integrity. As a result, the case was subsequently transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), a federal investigative agency in India. The CBI took over the investigation and later filed charges against 21 individuals believed to be involved in the incident.
The case initially started in a local court in Gujarat, where all 19 individuals accused were acquitted in 2003. The case was subsequently taken to the Gujarat High Court, which also acquitted the accused.
However, one of the victims named Zahirabibi Shaikh approached the Supreme Court with her plea, which was accepted. The Supreme Court then transferred the case to Maharashtra for further proceedings. The apex court ordered a reinvestigation by the police and a retrial in a court in Mumbai.
During the proceedings in the Vadodara court, two individuals named Solanki and Gohil were missing and considered absconders. Later on, they were also declared absconders by the Mumbai court.
After their arrest, they appeared before the court in 2013. In 2018, their bail plea was rejected by the court. In their application, Solanki and Gohil claimed that they were unaware of the retrial and argued that their absence should not be considered proof against them. Consequently, a separate trial was ordered for them, which began in 2019.