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Hearing of the petition filed by widow of slain Congress MP Ehsan Jafri has been repeatedly deferred by the Supreme Court since November last year

The Supreme Court, on Monday (February 11), once again deferred the hearing of a petition filed by Zakia Jafri challenging the clean chit given to Prime Minister Narendra Modi by the Special Investigation Team that investigated the 2002 Gujarat riots cases. The petition will now be taken up for hearing in July.

Jafri is the wife of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri who had been hacked to death in Ahmedabad’s Gulbarg Society by the rioting Hindu mob during the carnage. Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat when the riots – arguably the worst communal pogrom witnessed in India since the 1984 anti-Sikh riots – claimed over 2000 Muslim lives. It has also been alleged over time by Ehsan Jafri’s family that the former Congress MP had repeatedly called Modi over the phone when rioters were approaching Gulbarg Society and asked the then chief minister to send help for protection of the residents but his requests went unheeded. The massacre at Gulbarg Society claimed 68 lives, including Ehsan Jafri’s.

The Gujarat High Court had in 2017 upheld the clean chit given by the SIT to Modi and several other BJP leaders in the riot cases. Zakia Jafri had challenged the Gujarat High Court order in the apex court.

On November 13, a Supreme Court bench, headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar had told Jafri’s lawyers that it would study the SIT’s closure report, which cleared Modi’s name, thoroughly. Jafri’s lawyers have maintained that Modi’s role in the “larger conspiracy” of planning and executing the riots must be investigated along with the role played by the then state government’s machinery – the home department and police establishment included – in tacitly aiding the rioters who went on a rampage across Gujarat for three straight days in February 2002.

Besides Jafri, noted human rights activist and lawyer Teesta Setalvad has also moved a separate petition challenging the findings of the SIT.

Since November 19, the petition has been listed for hearing on several occasions only to be deferred till a further date. With the politically sensitive case now being deferred till July, a decision on whether or not a fresh probe must be carried out into Modi’s role in the riots will be taken only after the results of the Lok Sabha polls, due in April-May, are declared and a new central government elected.

—India Legal Bureau

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