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STAYING the trial in the sensational Ujjain professor H S Sabharwal’s murder case, the Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Madhya Pradesh government to explain what action it has taken against police officers who turned hostile witnesses. Concerned at the way police officers who witnessed the grisly killing of Sabharwal turned hostile, a bench of Justice Arijit Pasayat and D K Jain hoped that the case does not turn out to be another Best Bakery incident where all the witnesses turned hostile.

The apex court’s response came after the family of the slain professor moved an application seeking transfer of the case to Delhi and a CBI inquiry into the killings. The family sought transfer of the trial on the ground that though over 70 persons including police personnel, students and others were present when the incident took place, none of the witnesses were willing to testify freely as the accused belonged to the students’ wing of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

“What action have you taken against those police officers who resiled from their earlier statements. Would not the trial be a mockery if your police officers turned hostile? Our anxiety is that every police officer will be given a clean chit. We have seen what has happened in the Best Bakery case,” the bench remarked to the BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh government’s counsel who was present in the court.

In the Gujarat “Best Bakery case” all the accused were acquitted of the mass communal killings after the witnesses, which included some injured victims turned hostile. The petition alleged that five policemen Indravikram Singh, Dilip Tripathi, Dhara Singh Chawda, Shankar Rao Ghonghde and Sukhnandan who were initially roped in as prosecution witnesses turned hostile. Komal Singh Seneger, a staff member of the college who named the accused in front of the national media has now contradicted his own statement, the petition complained.
It was submitted that the investigating agency recorded the statements of 94 persons but brought on record only 45 statements. The petitioner complained that the statements of the witnesses were not recorded under Section 164 CrPC (by a magistrate) despite representations to the state’s Director General of Police.

H S Sabhawaral, a senior professor of the government college in Ujjain was beaten to death at the college campus on August 26, 2006 by students owing allegiance to the ABVP who were protesting against cancellation of elections to the students union.

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