Thursday, May 5, 2011

Gujarat riots: Supreme Court orders further probe on Modi's role

The Supreme Court on Thursday empowered the amicus curiae in the Zakia Jafri case to go beyond the report submitted by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) and, if necessary, to conduct a further probe on the role of Gujarat Chief Minister Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the 2002 riots.

A three-judge Bench of Justices D.K. Jain, P. Sathasivam and Aftab Alam asked the amicus, Raju Ramachandran, to analyse and examine the SIT’s report and give his comments in the light of the statements of the witnesses filed along with the report.

The Bench in its order said, “If the amicus curiae, on the basis of evidence on record, finds that any offence is made out against any person, he shall mention the same in the report.”

When Mr. Ramachandran informed the court that he had received a copy of the affidavit filed by senior police officer Sanjeev Bhatt — in which he states that he was present in the meeting convened by Mr. Modi on February 27, 2002 where instructions were given to teach Muslims a lesson — the Bench said he could interact with any one of the witnesses, including the police officer concerned, to give an objective assessment of the evidence.

Justice Jain said, “At present we are not commenting on the affidavit [of Mr. Bhat].

In its order, the Bench noted that the Chairman of the SIT, R.K. Raghavan, had furnished his comments on the investigation conducted by his team along with the report of further investigation. The statements of witnesses had also been filed.

The order said “the copies of the report, along with the comments of the Chairman, be given to the amicus curiae, who shall analyse them in the light of evidence, statements of witnesses, and have his independent assessment of the entire evidence which has come on record.”

When senior Counsel Shanti Bhushan, appearing for Ms. Jafri, sought copies of the reports alleging that a “cover-up job” was done by the SIT, the Bench said it would consider all other aspects on the next date of hearing on July 28, after hearing from the amicus curiae.

Acting on the complaint of Ms. Jafri, whose husband, Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, was killed in the 2002 riots, the SIT was asked by the Court to conduct a probe into the charge that Mr. Modi and 62 other politicians and officials had orchestrated the post-Godhra communal riots. The SIT submitted its report to the Supreme Court in May 2010.

On March 15, 2011, the Bench pointed out that the inferences of the SIT chief, R.K. Raghavan, in the report did not match the findings of the SIT and asked him to examine the observations of the amicus curiae and consider conducting a further probe into the complaint. The SIT conducted a further probe and submitted a report on April 25. Now the amicus has been asked to review the entire report and probe further if necessary.

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