SC to hear Jafri's plea on Nov 19 over clean chit to Modi on Gujarat riots
The Supreme Court Tuesday said it will hear on November 19 the petition filed by Zakia Ashan Jafri challenging the clean chit given by the Special Investigating Team (SIT) to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in connection with the 2002 post-Godhra riots in Gujarat, when he was the state chief minister.
Zakia, the wife of Ehsan Jafri, an ex-MP who was killed in one of the worst incidents during the riots, has challenged the Gujarat High Court's October 5, 2017 order rejecting her plea against the SIT's decision.
A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and Deepak Gupta said the matter will be heard on November 19, as the court has not gone through the petition in detail.
During the brief hearing, senior advocate C U Singh, appearing for Jafri said notice needs to be issued in the plea as it pertains to the aspect of "larger conspiracy" during the period from February 27, 2002, and May 2002.
He also maintained that after the SIT gave a clean chit in its closure report in the case before a trial judge, a protest was filed by the petitioner which was dismissed by the magistrate without considering the "substantiated merits".
On February 8, 2012, the SIT filed a closure report, giving the clean chit to Modi and 63 others, including senior government officials, saying there was "no prosecutable evidence" against them.
The Supreme Court bench also noted the office report's remarks that the plea should be tagged along with the pending criminal appeals in the case.
Senior advocate C S Vaidyanathan, appearing for Gujarat government opposed the suggestion and said that it is a separate case and should not be tagged along with the criminal appeals. The state government advocate also opposed issuing of a notice in the plea.
"Maybe registry has wrongly mentioned in the official report. We have not gone through the petition in detail. It will be better if we take up the matter on November 19," the bench said.
Ehsan Jafri was among 68 people who were killed at the Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad when a mob attacked it on February 28, 2002, a day after the S-6 Coach of the Sabarmati Express returning from Ayodhya at Godhra was burned, triggering the riots in Gujarat.
"The present Special Leave Petition is filed before this Court against the final judgement and order dated October 5, 2017, passed by the High Court of Gujarat...which erroneously upheld the order of the magistrate accepting the closure report filed by the Special Investigative Agency appointed by this Court concerning the violence in Gujarat in 2002," said the plea of Zakia filed through advocate Aparna Bhat.
The plea further said the high court "failed to appreciate" the Petitioner's complaint which was independent of the Gulberg Case registered at Meghaninagar Police Station.
Zakia sought an interim order to the SIT to carry out a further investigation with regard to her complaint and the evidence provided by her before the magistrate through the protest petition.
"The allegations in the case were against various bureaucrats, police officers and political leaders. The issues brought forth reflected conspiracy, abetment and hate speech by the accused, which culminated in the violence in Gujarat," the plea alleged.
It said that the high court order be set aside as "it failed to appreciate that the then chief minister and other prominent members of the political right wing made inflammatory speeches, the home department turned a blind eye towards various SIB reports for prosecuting certain VHP office bearers and publishing houses for propagating an incendiary rhetoric which would amount to an offence under IPC".
"Whether the High Court failed to appreciate that senior police officers and members of bureaucracy were not reprimanded but rewarded for gross dereliction of duty and collaborating with the illegal plans of the CM/BJP during 2002 riots and afterwards?" the plea charged.
The high court in its October 5, 2017, order had said that the SIT probe was monitored by the Supreme Court but had partly allowed Zakia's petition as far as its demand of a further investigation was concerned.
It had said that petitioner can approach an appropriate forum including the magistrate's court, a division bench of the high court or the Supreme Court seeking further investigation.
Activist Teesta Setalvad, secretary of NGO - Citizen for Justice and Peace- is also a co-petitioner in the appeal seeking reversal of the Gujarat high court order.
(With inputs from agencies.)