Best Bakery Case

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  • Topic: Judge, Court, Contempt of court
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INTRODUCTION
Zahira’s case is the landmark judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India on law relating to the Contempt of Court. The case is commonly referred as the Best Bakery Case. The incident involved the burning down of the Best Bakery, a small outlet in the Hanuman Tekri area of Vadodara as a part of communal riots on March 1, 2002. Twelve Muslims and two others were burnt alive in the premises of the bakery, "allegedly by a Hindu mob".

Zahira H. Sheikh, a 19-year-old during the incident, was a key and notable witness. She stated that she saw her family members burn to death. On March 23, however, 37 of the 73 witnesses, including Sheikh, turned hostile, saying they had seen nothing on the night of the attack. Hence, all accused were acquitted for the lack of evidence. On July 11, 2003, Zaheera testified before the National Human Rights Commission that she was forced to change her statement. On August 1 the same year, the NHRC filed a petition in the Supreme Court asking for a retrial in a Court outside Gujarat. The Supreme Court directed a re-trial in Maharashtra. Again statements were changed by Zahira. She stated that the judgment passed by the Gujarat Court was correct. The prosecution declared Zahira Sheikh to be a hostile witness. Also a tape by Tehelka was released which claimed that Zahira had been bribed by an MLA.

Masjlis-e-Shura, an apex decision-making body of Muslims, consequently declared Sheikh a 'dissembler', effectively ousting her from the Muslim community. The organization gave as its reason that Zaheera was "tarnishing (the community's) image by making false statements." The Supreme Court held her guilty of perjury and was punished with both fine and imprisonment. The case has been regarded as country’s one of the most controversial and high profile trials.

SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

Before:- Arijit Pasayat & H.K. Sema, JJ.

Criminal Appeal No.s 446-449 of 2004. D/d 8.3.2006

Zahira Habibullah Sheikh & Anr.
Appellants
Versus
State of Gujarat & Ors.
Respondents

Criminal Misc. Petition Nos. 6658-6661 of 2004 in
Criminal Appeal Nos. 446-449 of 2004

For the Appellant:- Mr. Dinesh Kumar Garg, Mr. Manzolor Ali Khan, Mr. Pavit Singh, Ms. Aparna Bhat, Mr. P. Ramesh Kumar, Ms. Afreen Siddiqui and Ms. Madhulika Mohta, Advocates,

For the Respondent:- Ms. Hemantika Wahi, Dr. Kailash Chand, Mr. A.P. Mayee, Mr. V.N. Raghupathy, Mr. Sanjay Jain, Mr. S. Muralidhar, Mr. Manoj Goel, Mr. Shuvodeep Roy, Mr. Wajith Shafiq, Mr. Brij Bhushan, Mr. Abha R. Sharma and Mr. H.A. Raichura, Advocates.

CASES REFERRED:
1. Zahira Habibullah Sheikh v. State of Gujarat, 2004(2) RCR (criminal) 836: 2004 (3) Apex Criminal 46: [(2004) 4 SCC 158] 2. Sukhdev Singh Sodhi v. Chief Justice and judges of the PEPSU High Court, [AIR 1954 SC 186] 3. Supreme Court Bar Association v. Union of India and Another, [AIR 1998 SC 1895] 4. Metropolitan Properties Ltd. v. Lannon, (1968) 3 All ER 304 (CA). 5. Lesson v. General Council of Medical Education, (1890) 43 Ch. D. 366. 6. Jennison v. Bacjker. [1972 (1) All ER 1006]

7. Jagat Rai v. State of Maharashtra, [AIR 1968 SC 178]
8. Dhanraj Singh @ Shera v. State of Punjab, [JT 2004(3) SC 380] 9. Karnel Singh v. State of M.P., 1995 (3) RCR (Criminal) 526: [1995 (5) SCC 518] 10. Paras Yadav v. State of Bihar, 1999 (1) RCR (Criminal) 627: [1999 (2) SCC 126] 11. Ram Bihari Yadav v. State of Bihar, 1998 (2) RCR (Criminal) 403: [1998 (4) SCC 517] 12. Amar Singh v. Balwinder Singh, 2003 (1) RCR (Criminal) 701: [2003 (2) SCC 518]

LAW APPLICABLE IN THE CASE
Articles- 129, 142(2) of the Constitution of India.

Section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971

Sections- 156, 311 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

FACTS OF THE CASE
1. That in the present case appeals were filed by: Zahira Habibullah hereinafter referred to as 'Zahira and Another namely, Teesta Setelwad' and...
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