NHRC moves SC for re-opening Best Bakery case n And shifting of key cases, including Godhra, outside Gujarat

Filing a special leave petition today—as reported in The Indian Express yesterday—the commission asked the Supreme Court to order ‘‘further investigation’’ in the Best Bakery case by ‘‘an independent agency’’ and its ‘‘retrial’’ outside Gujarat.

In a separate application, it also sought the transfer of four other ‘‘serious’’ cases for trial outside Gujarat: Godhra, Chamanpura (Gulbarg society), Naroda Patiya and Sardarpura (Mehsana).

Such unprecedented activism by the NHRC follows a series of events provoked by a startling admission to The Indian Express on July 5 by one of the ‘‘hostile witnesses’’ in the Best Bakery case, Sehrunissa Sheikh, that she lied in the court because of the threats she received.

Referring to the acquittal of all 21 accused in the Best Bakery case on June 27, the NHRC said that the failure of the trial judge, H U Mahida, to instil confidence among witnesses is a violation of the victims’ ‘‘right to fair trial.’’

This was in turn a violation of the fundamental rights under the Constitution and India commitment to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

‘‘Whenever a criminal goes unpunished, it is the society at large which suffers because the victims become demoralised and criminals encouraged,’’ the NHRC said.

It added that it therefore becomes the ‘‘duty of the court to use all its powers to unearth the truth and render justice so that the crime is punished.’’