With the Supreme Court Wednesday sentencing Best Bakery prime witness Zaheera Sheikh to one year imprisonment for contempt of court, Vadodara police has intensified its search for Zaheera and her family in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.
According to Vadodara Police Commissioner Deepak Swaroop, "Zaheera is believed to be in Mumbai. We have sought the help of the Mumbai as well as the Uttar Pradesh police to trace the Sheikh family.
"Police team would be sent to the two states once the family's whereabouts are known."
The police chief said the city Detection of Crime Branch sleuths, who had been given the responsibility of serving perjury notices to Zaheera and four of her family members which were earlier issued by a Mumbai special court, had not been able to trace any of them despite repeated raids on several possible hideouts in and outside Vadodara.
On February 24, Mumbai special court Judge Abhay Thipsay, while convicting nine of the 21 Best Bakery accused, had issued perjury notices against Zaheera, her mother Sehrunissa, Zaheera's sister and two brothers Nafitullah and Nasibullah for their fluctuating testimony. The accused were supposed to reply to the notices by March 30.
According to legal experts, while the Supreme Court had sentenced Zaheera to one year jail term for contempt of court, the entire Sheikh family could be sentenced upto seven years in jail, if they were found guilty in the perjury case initiated by the Mumbai retrial court.
Soon after the Supreme Court Wednesday convicted Zaheera in the contempt of court case filed by Zaheera's one time protector Teesta Setalvad, a team of DCB sleuths visited the Tarsali residence of Zaheera only to find it locked.
Zaheera, who had finally settled down with her family in a rented house at Tarsali after her return to Vadodara in November, 2004, had reportedly left the house a couple of months ago and has remained untraceable since then.
On Wednesday, police also visited the renovated Best Bakery building, which is now occupied by Zaheera's sister-in-law Heena.
When approached by the media, Heena said the whereabouts of Zaheera and other members of the family, including her husband Nafitullah, were not known to her as none of them had contacted her since long.