Gujarat riots: SIT to probe officials’ inaction

Thursday, August 19, 2010

NEW DELHI - The Supreme Court Thursday permitted the Special Investigating Team (SIT) probing the 2002 post-Godhra riot cases in Gujarat to investigate allegations of inaction by the state government during the carnage at Ahmedabad’s Gulberg Society.

The court order came on a complaint filed by Zakia Nasim, widow of former Congress MP Ehsan Jaffri burnt alive by a mob at the society, alleging a larger conspiracy behind inaction of the state government machinery.

The post-Godhra massacre Feb 28, 2002 at the society saw 35 people killed. Thirtyone people were reported missing after the violence.

On Thursday, the SIT also submitted a report to the court in a sealed cover.

The report, prepared by former Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) deputy inspector general A.K. Malhotra, also carried the comments of SIT chairman and former CBI director R.K. Raghavan.

An apex court bench of Justice D.K. Jain, Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Aftab Alam was also given another report by Malhotra wherein he said that he wanted to investigate three more people.

The court while handing over the copy of the SIT report to amicus curiae Prashant Bhushan said that it was just a preliminary inquiry and upon going through it if he felt that more people were required to be investigated, then he should indicate the same.

The next hearing of the matter would take place Sep 30.

The court also asked the SIT not to share with the Justice G.T. Nanavati Commission, conducting a parallel probe in the riots, the details of its questioning of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

The Nanavati Commission which had given a clean chit to Modi in its interim report has approached the SIT for a report on Modi’s questioning. Modi was questioned by the SIT March 27, 2010.

The court also rejected the plea by Gujarat’s Additional Advocate General Tushar Mehta’s plea to make senior counsel Harish Salve as amicus curiae in place of Bhushan.

He said that Bhushan’s views on Gujarat affairs were too pronounced to carry any confidence in him.

The additional advocate general said that the state wanted that the assistance rendered by the amicus curiae to the court should be objective.

At this, Justice Jain said: “The court has reposed confidence in him (Bhushan)”.

The court took note of a report that said that the social activists Teesta Setalvad had tried to influence a special public prosecutor.

Expressing its displeasure, the court directed that henceforth the SIT would communicate with special public prosecutors only through Raghavan and if public prosecutors had to talk to SIT they would get in touch with him.

When Teesta wanted to deny the charge, the court said that your telephone number is mentioned in the report.

Teesta said that she doesn’t deny that she spoke to special public prosecutors but it was on a different subject. After recording her statement the court closed the matter.

When the senior counsel Ram Jethmalani sought the copy of the SIT report submitted to the court in a sealed cover, Justice Jain said that it would be made available to them as and when the occasion arises.

When Jethmalani said that the report should be unsealed and its content made public, Justice Jain said that if the copy of the report could be given to the state then why the same should not be given to the petitioner upon whose complaint entire process was initiated.

The court also issued notice to the Maharashtra government for refusing to release one of its Indian Police Service (IPS) officers, K. Venketash, for the purposes of reconstituting the SIT.

The court in its notice asked why the state government should not be directed to release the said officer.

The court order came after Salve said that no one should be allowed to make either positive or negative contribution to the composition of SIT.

Salve said that the moment court issues notice, the state government would fall in line.

The court was told that the SIT was inducting an Assam IPS officer Y.C. Modi.

Filed under: Accidents and Disasters

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