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Gujarat HC reserves judgment on POTA evidence
Wednesday, March 24, 2010 04:43:31 PM, IANS
Gandhinagar: The Gujarat High Court Tuesday reserved decision on whether to preserve confessional statements of the accused in POTA cases and consider them as evidence.
Counsel for petitioners, A.D. Shah argued that as per the Evidence Act, the court has to decide whether the evidence produced before it was relevant and admissible or not. It was also argued that according to this Act, confessional statements cannot be considered as evidence and thus they were inadmissible.
He argued that section 32 of the repealed Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act (POTA) which states that the confessional statements recorded before a police officer of Superintendent of Police rank or above can be considered as evidence, was for a trial under POTA and no other trial.
Prosecution advocate Sushil Kumar contended that it would not make any difference in the prosecution's case whether or not the confessional statements are used as evidence. According to Kumar, the police had recorded the statements and based on which the state booked the case under POTA.
As POTA was revoked and the POTA review committee had opined that the act was not applicable on the Godhra train carnage cases, the designated court which had powers to conduct trial under code of criminal procedure, continued the trial under other provisions of the law.
Kumar contended that the court should look into the cognizance of the case and should consider the factual aspects. "The court should consider the fact that the offence was committed on a particular day and irrespective of whether or not it was registered under POTA," he argued.
However, Shah argued that the petitioners were not objecting to any evidence collected under CrPC but advancing the plea that their confessional statements cannot be used in an ordinary trial.
Kumar argued that the court should order preserving the statements on record in the interest of justice as the Supreme Court is still seized with the matter. "Disposed evidence could not be collected if the statements were required at later stage if the SC decides that the Godhra cases can be tried under POTA."
Fifty-nine people were burnt alive in the Sabarmati Express' coach S-5 and S-6 on Feb 27, 2002.
Earlier this month, a special court at the Sabarmati prison had refused the accused's plea on confessional statements under POTA. Designated judge P.R. Patel had observed that a decision whether to accept the statements as evidence or not can be considered at a later stage and trial should continue. The petitioners had appealed against the designated judge's decision in the high court. Justice Anant Dave has kept the order reserved after hearing both sides.
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