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Panel's ultimatum to Zaheera Sheikh

Manas Dasgupta

``Appear or face the consequences''


AHMEDABAD: : The G. T. Nanavati and the K. G. Shah judicial inquiry commission probing the Godhra train carnage and the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat, has taken exception to the prime witness in the Best Bakery case, Zaheera Sheikh, seeking repeated adjournments for her cross-examination.

Granting her application for an adjournment once again, the Commission on Thursday directed Ms. Sheikh to appear before it on May 4 "for recording her evidence." If she fails to turn up, "she will have to face the consequences," Mr. Justice Nanavati told her lawyer, Atul Mistry.

The commission met briefly here on Thursday afternoon to consider her application filed on Wednesday seeking a further adjournment in view of the hearing of her case in the Supreme Court on April 18. Ms. Sheikh did not turn up and was represented by her lawyer. Mr. Mistry claimed that the Mumbai-based social activist, Teesta Setalvad, in her affidavit before the apex court had also filed a copy of Ms. Sheikh's affidavit before the commission. The advocate for the riot victims, Mukul Sinha's stand is that the areas of her cross-examination before the apex court and the commission are entirely different. But the copy attached by Ms. Setalvad had brought the affidavit before the commission also under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

Possible contradiction

Mr. Mistry said that it would be better if the commission called Ms. Sheikh for cross-examination after the apex court was through with her deposition, to avoid any possible contradiction.

Mr. Mistry also claimed that a copy of the depositions made before the commission by the then Vadodara Police Commissioner, D. D. Tuteja, on the Best Bakery incident had also been submitted before the Supreme Court.

This could also be the subject matter of examination by the apex court and the commission.

When Dr. Sinha objected to giving her further adjournment, Mr. Justice Nanavati said that the commission did not want to exert pressure on a witness.

"We all know that she is reluctant to come before the commission, so we are going slowly step by step. We are giving her one last chance to agree to come before the commission for recording her evidence."

The commission also said that if Ms. Sheikh presented herself on May 4, it would try to complete recording her evidence as soon as possible.

If it was not completed the same day, the commission would look for the earliest possible dates and have continuous hearings to complete her case.

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