Disgruntled officers of Gujarat govt need to be in dock for making false revelations on 2002 riots: Top court
Upholding the SIT’s clean chit to Narendra Modi in the Gujarat riots of 2002, the Supreme Court on Friday dismissed Zakia Jafri’s petition alleging conspiracy at the highest level, observing that these are attempts to “keep the pot boiling” for years and abuse of process with ulterior design. Bringing the curtains down on the bid to reopen the probe, the bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar said the material collected during the investigation does not “give rise to strong or grave suspicion regarding hatching of larger criminal conspiracy at the highest level” for causing mass violence against Muslims.
The bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and C T Ravikumar termed the slain Congress MP Ehsan Jafri‘s wife’s petition as “the devious stratagem to keep the pot boiling, obviously, for ulterior design” and said all those involved in “such abuse of process need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law”. The court said the present proceedings (by Zakia Jafri) have been pursued for the last 16 years including with the audacity to question the integrity of every functionary involved in the process.
The apex court also said that disgruntled officers of the Gujarat government need to be in the dock and proceeded in accordance with law for creating a sensation by making false revelations about the 2002 riots. The top court also said it finds force in the argument of the State that the testimony of Sanjiv Bhatt (then IPS officer and now in jail for custodial torture) and R B Sreekumar (now retired IPS officer) was only to sensationalize and politicize the matters in issue, “although, replete with falsehood.”
“At the end of the day, it appears to us that a coalesced effort of the disgruntled officials of the State of Gujarat along with others was to create a sensation by making revelations which were false to their own knowledge. The falsity of their claims had been fully exposed by the SIT after a thorough investigation,” said the apex court. The SC appointed SIT headed by former CBI Director R K Raghavan after four years of investigation has given clean chit to then Gujarat Chief Minister Modi and 63 others in February 2012. Zakia Jafri had challenged the SIT’s clean chit to 64 people, including Modi alleging a larger conspiracy.
The apex court appreciated the Special Investigation Team (SIT) for its “indefatigable work” in challenging circumstances and said it has come out with “flying colors unscathed”. The top court said no fault can be found with the SIT’s approach and its February 8, 2012, final report is backed by firm logic, “expositing analytical mind and dealing with all aspects objectively for discarding the allegations regarding larger criminal conspiracy…”
The bench upheld the decision of a Magistrate in accepting the final report submitted by the SIT and rejecting the protest petition filed by Zakia Jafri. She had challenged the Gujarat High Court’s October 5, 2017 order rejecting her plea against the SIT decision. “We do not countenance the submission of the appellant regarding infraction of rule of law in the matter of investigation and the approach of the magistrate and the high court in dealing with the final report,” the bench said in its 452-page judgment.
Congress leader Ehsan Jafri was among the 68 people killed at Ahmedabad’s Gulberg Society during violence on February 28, 2002, a day after the Godhra train burning that claimed 59 lives. The riots that it triggered killed 1,044 people, mostly Muslims. Giving details, the Central government informed the Rajya Sabha in May 2005 that 254 Hindus and 790 Muslims were killed in the post-Godhra riots.
In its verdict, the apex court noted that the SIT had formed its opinion after considering all the material collated during the investigation. The question of the further probe would have arisen only on the availability of new material/ information in connection with the allegation of a larger conspiracy at the highest level, which is not forthcoming in this case. “As aforementioned, the SIT has gone by the logic of falsity of the information or material and including the same remaining uncorroborated.
“In that, the materials collected during the investigation do not give rise to strong or grave suspicion regarding hatching of larger criminal conspiracy at the highest level for causing mass violence across the State against the minority community and more so, indicating the involvement of the named offenders and their meeting of minds at some level in that regard,” said the Judgment.
“Intriguingly, the present proceedings have been pursued for last 16 years (from submission of complaint dated June 8, 2006, running into 67 pages and then by filing protest petition dated April 15, 2013, running into 514 pages) including with the audacity to question the integrity of every functionary involved in the process of exposing the devious stratagem adopted (to borrow the submission of counsel for the SIT), to keep the pot boiling, obviously, for ulterior design,” it said.
“As a matter of fact, all those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with the law,” the bench said, criticizing the “disgruntled officers” of Gujarat and petitioner Zakia Jafri.
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