A Mumbai sessions court on Tuesday has acquitted two accused Harshad Solanki and Mafat Gohil in the 2nd part of 2002 Best Bakery case of Gujarat.
At a time when the other accused in the anti-Muslim violence case faced trial, the two said accused — Harshad Solanki and Mafat Gohil — were absconding, leading to a separate trial for them.
The Best Bakery case was one of the anti-Muslim episodes that took place on March 1, 2002, in Vadodara, Gujarat. A Hindu mob attacked a small bakery owned by a Muslim family, killing 14 people, including 11 Muslims and 3 Hindu employees of the bakery. The attack was part of a larger wave of violence against Muslims that erupted in Gujarat. The Best Bakery case became a symbol of the Gujarat genocide. The case was initially investigated by the Gujarat police, but their investigation was widely criticized as being biased and incomplete. The case was then transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which filed charges against 21 people.
However, in 2006, a special court acquitted all 21 accused due to lack of evidence. The Supreme Court in 2004 then directed a retrial outside Gujarat — to ensure fairness. In the Mumbai trial, judge found nine people guilty and sentenced them to life imprisonment and 12 were acquitted, according to Live Law. In 2012, the Bombay High Court acquitted five of the nine accused, while confirming punishment given to four of them. The court had considered the testimonies of four eye witnesses during the trial.
While Solanki and Gohil had faced a trial before the Vadodara court, they were declared absconding when the retrial took place in Mumbai. Solanki and Gohil were subsequently arrested and brought before the Mumbai court in 2013. In 2019, the Mumbai court imposed several charges against them, including murder, and the trial began.