This Article is From Aug 30, 2011

So who shot Haren Pandya? 12 men acquitted on Monday

So who shot Haren Pandya? 12 men acquitted on Monday
Ahmedabad: The Gujarat High Court acquitted 12 people accused of murdering senior BJP leader and former Home Minister, Haren Pandya on Monday. It has also accused the CBI of mishandling the investigation.

"It is clear that the CBI had botched up. Their investigations left a lot to be desired," the court said. ''The Investigation Officer should be held responsible for lapses which has resulted in enormous wastage of public resource and money," the court said. The CBI will file a Special Leave Petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court.

Mr Pandya was shot five times in Ahmedabad in 2003 while he was in his car near the Law Garden. A total of 19 people were accused of plotting and conducting the assassination.  Four of them were never traced.

The investigation was first carried out by the Crime Branch of the Gujarat Police and was then handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (the CBI).  The agency alleged that Mr Pandya had been killed to avenge the communal riots of 2002, in which 1,200 people were killed, most of them Muslims.

In 2007, a court in Ahmedabad found 12 of the 15 people accused of murdering Mr Pandya guilty; 12 were sentenced to life in prison and later appealed to the High Court. A POTA review committee had dropped charges against the other 3 of the 15 accused. Anas Achiaswala who was then 23-years-old was not among them. A small time trader in Ahmedabad, Achiaswala was also awarded a life sentence and has now been acquitted.

His brother, Owais, said, "For over nine years we have been suffering...but today we are happy that in this state there is justice for Muslims."

Mr Pandya served as minister when the BJP's Keshubhai Patel was Chief Minister. Mr Patel's rivalry with his party's new Chief Minister Narendra Modi, played out publicly and acrimoniously. Mr Pandya was sidelined when Mr Modi became Chief Minister in October 2001. The killed politician's family has always held that his was a political murder, and has hinted at Mr Modi's involvement.