A sessions court in Mumbai sought clarification from the Supreme Court on Monday on a plea made by Zaheera Sheikh to undergo one-year sentence for perjury in Maharashtra.
Judge Abhay Thipsay said the Supreme Court order does not indicate the manner in which the sentence has to be executed. The judge noted that the apex court order does not give directions to the Gujarat police to apprehend Zaheera and keep her in a prison in Gujarat.
"Since Zaheera specifically stated that she should not be handed over to the Gujarat police and instead be lodged in a prison in Maharashtra, it will not be proper on part of this court to hand her over to Gujarat police," the judge observed.
"Under the circumstances it will be fit and appropriate for this court to seek directions from Supreme Court as to the manner in which Zaheera should undergo her sentence," he said. The court sent her in custody, till March 16, pending clarification from the apex court.
Clad in a burkha, Zaheera was in tears and broke down when the judge asked why she had come to his court when the order of jail sentence had been pronounced by the apex court.
The judge asked Zaheera whether she wanted to make a statement in camera to which she replied in the affirmative.
Mediapersons and members of the public were asked to leave the court immediately.
After some time when mediapersons were allowed entry, the judge told Zaheera that he was ordering security for her in the jail as she apprehended danger to her life. When the judge asked Zaheera why she had given false submissions, she said she had nothing to say.
Zaheera pleaded before the court that she may be allowed to go home on March 20 to attend the mourning ritual of her brother Nafitullah who had passed away recently.
However, the judge told Zaheera that she could not be released as she had surrendered to undergo one-year jail term ordered by the Supreme Court.
"It is now proved that you have told lies and for that you are punished. What if I release you and the Gujarat police takes you in custody?" the judge asked.
The judge also advised her not to insist on going home as she was apprehending danger to her life and instead assured that the state would provide adequate security to her in jail.
Prosecutor Manjula Rao told the judge that Zaheera had not eaten food since March 10 when she had surrendered before the court.
Thereupon, the court allowed Zaheera to have home food in jail.
Meanwhile, Zaheera's lawyers Atul Mistry and D K Garg arrived at the fag end of proceedings and filed an application urging that they were moving the Supreme Court for review of its order and reducing the sentence awarded to Zaheera.
They also urged the court to detain her in custody till March 24. The court took the application on record, but did not pass any order.
The lawyers told reporters that they were not aware of Zaheera's plans to surrender before this court and if they had been consulted, they would have advised Zaheera to surrender before the Supreme Court and plead for review of the apex court order while urging for interim bail.
Zaheera surrendered on March 10 two days after the Supreme Court held her guilty of contempt of court.
The Supreme Court had sentenced Zaheera to one-year jail term and fined her Rs 50,000 for her flip-flops in the Best Bakery trial and for changing her version frequently.
The apex court severely reprimanded Zaheera for turning hostile during the trial and accepted the report of the high-powered inquiry committee, which indicted her as a "self-condemned liar".
In the communal flare up in Gujarat following the Sabarmati Express train burning incident, Best Bakery was set afire on March 1, 2002, by a crowd in Vadodara, killing 14 people who had taken refuge in the premises.
Zaheera, who along with her family survived the bakery fire, had moved the apex court alleging that all the 21 accused in the case had been acquitted by the Gujarat court as she had turned hostile because of threats issued to her.
The apex court, on April 12, 2004, asked a Mumbai court to conduct the retrial so that the accused were given a fair trial outside Gujarat.
While ordering retrial, the apex court had quashed the lower court order acquitting the 21 people.
Four of them were untraceable and 17 were arrested and brought to Mumbai for retrial. The Mumbai court in its verdict on February 24 sentenced nine accused to life imprisonment and acquitted eight others due to lack of evidence.
The court also issued notices to Zaheera and her family members to show cause why action should not be taken against them. The matter is pending and would be heard on March 20.
Complete Coverage: The Gujarat Riots