Gujarat riots: SC to deliver verdict on appeal challenging clean chit to PM Modi today

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Two decades after the 2002 Gujarat riots, the Supreme Court is set to deliver its verdict on an appeal that questioned the clean chit by the special investigation team to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was the CM of the state back then, and 62 others for their alleged role in the violence.

The court had reserved its order on a petition filed by Zakia Jafri against the Gujarat High Court’s order, rejecting her plea against the SIT decision in December last year.

A bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar will pronounce the order today.

During the hearing, the SIT told the bench that nobody had spoken against its probe into the 2002 Gujarat riots, except the present petition.

Zakia Jafri, the wife of Congress leader Ehsan Jafri, who was killed during the violence at Gulbarg Society in Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002, challenged the SIT’s clean chit to the 64 people.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for the SIT, told the bench that the Supreme Court should endorse the trial court and the Gujarat High Court’s decision on Jafri’s plea otherwise it would result in an endless exercise that could go on because of some motives of social activist Teesta Setalvad, who is Petitioner Number 2 in the petition.

Kapil Sibal who appeared for Zakia Jafri told the top court that the SIT did not conduct an investigation but did a collaborative exercise and its probe was fraught with omissions to protect conspirators.

“The SIT was rendering conclusions contrary to facts they were aware of. In fact, the SIT itself should be investigated. It is true… I am not concerned with individuals. I am concerned with the process. I am only saying SIT did not do its job. It was an act of protection. It did a collaborative exercise,” he submitted.

Sibal said that there was evidence in the form of electronic records including call data records of senior police officials and mobs identifying houses of Muslims, all of which pointed towards conspiracy.

Sibal also pointed out how officials of SIT as well as the police were “rewarded handsomely”. “All those who collaborated were rehabilitated in a big way. RK Raghavan who headed SIT was made High Commissioner of Cyprus,” he said.

“The SIT said he was handling the bodies of Godhra victims but call data records showed he was sitting in the office the whole day. Is it his job to handle corpses? If he was so concerned, would he have allowed the bodies to be brought by road from Godhra to Ahmedabad and allowed passions to flare up? PC Pandey was one of the worst collaborators. He later became DGP of Gujarat. The journey from accused to DGP is disconcerting,” Sibal had told the bench

The Gujarat High Court had in October 2017 upheld the clean chit given to Modi and 63 others by the Special Investigation Team (SIT).

Zakia had approached the Gujarat High Court in 2014 after the Magisterial Court rejected the petition challenging the SIT report.

In her plea, she demanded that the 64 people, including Modi, senior cops and bureaucrats, be made accused of conspiring 2002 riots. Zakia Jafri had also sought a re-investigation of the riots cases.

The Supreme Court had in 2011 referred the Gulbarg Society massacre to the local district magistrate’s court since it was a local police matter.

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