Apart from being one of the nine 2002 Godhra train carnage and subsequent communal riots cases which the Supreme Court ordered to be further investigated by a Special Investigation Team (SIT), the Prantij British nationals killing case is also distinct because it is probably the rare case where foreign diplomats had deposed as witnesses through video-conference.
On March 9, 2002, the then British High Commissioner, Ian Reakes, had visited the factories near the place of offence, along with the relatives of the victims, in the presence of police. They found bones and tooth from a factory which were handed over to police as an evidence. With reference to the same episode, in 2012, Reakes and one more British diplomat had deposed as witnesses before the trial court via Skype.
The case also assumes importance because, in the recent past the reference to the case was made before the Prime Minister Narendra Modi at least twice by the British authorities.
Amid such distinctions, the judgment day in the case didn’t see the presence of any relative of the victims. Their only representative was their lawyer, A M Malek. After the judgment, Malek said that they would read the judgment and then decide further course of action.
Apart from that, two representatives of the British High Commission were present in the court throughout the proceedings when the judgment was pronounced, though they did not want to be identified.
Meanwhile, the accused also remained tight-lipped about their views on the judgment. All of them refused to say anything without the permission of their lawyer. After much prodding, Chandubhai Patel (62) — one of the six acquitted accused — said that he was not present at the scene of the crime when the offence was reported. “My only ‘offence’ was that I owned 52 bigha land on the highway near the area where the incident happened,” he said. “I was so traumatised by this case that I sold off all that land and bought land somewhere else,” he added.
The acquitted accused’s lawyer, Rashmikant Pandya, meanwhile, said, “It’s a good judgment. The nightmare of 13 years for the six has come to an end.” Investigating officer in the case from the SIT and Gujarat-cadre IPS officer, Himanshu Shukla, said that they would most probably decide to go for an appeal in the case after going through the judgment.