The Supreme Court has adjourned the plea of Zakia Ahsan Jafri, the widow of ex-MP Ehsan Jafri, challenging the decision of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to give a clean chit to then Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi in the 2002 riots. Ehsan Jafri was a member of the 6th Lok Sabha for the Congress party and was among the 68 people who died in the Gulbarg Society Massacre during the 2002 Gujarat riots, a day after the Sabarmati Express was burned at Godhra killing 59 people and resulting in riots in the state.
The three-judge bench presided by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice C.T. Ravikumar heard the matter today and said, “We have to move forward from 2011. We can’t move backwards. Going backwards to history of 2009, 2010 that may not help us today. 2011 this court says submit report before Magistrate.”
Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared on behalf of the SIT, submitted, “We will show that we have faithfully investigated everything.”
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal submitted, “I don’t want to be in a position where I’m made to argue for something which I don’t want to. I am not interested in dealing with individuals but the manner in which the state reacted.”
“My learned friend wants to travel in muddy water, I won’t even after his persuasion,” Sibal refers to his convenience compilation, points out that at multiple locations, calls were made for ambulances but calls weren’t answered.
“Who’s to investigate this? We’re in 2021, this happened in February 2002. For 19 years, no one asked this question. Wasn’t this the responsibility of this great SIT that was constituted. Since Lordships asked me the question that how’s state responsible, who’s to be responsible then? What does law require? Law requires not to accept statements of accused, you can’t close investigation by accepting statements of a potential accused. Firstly you’d find out who all were in control room, then take their statements. You’d take his phone, see who did he ring up at that point of time. Where was he located when he was calling? Then you record that gentleman’s statement & see what he told him All this should’ve been investigated by SIT, question is why did they not? They took information, what did they do about it, nothing!”
Rohtagi interrupted, “If Mr Sibal can finish today, I can wrap up tomorrow”, to which Sibal replied that it is not possible as he has some more volumes to refer.
The bench questioned Sibal, “Your main issue seems to be that material evidence you wanted to be part of your protest petition but that has not been taken into account by SIT?” Sibal clarifies that both SIT & the Magistrate did not take the relevant material into consideration.
The bench asked about how has the Magistrate dealt with this matter? Sibal mentioned that the magistrate has not considered at all and as justification, the magistrate said that he is only concerned with the Gulbarg society matter and nothing else.
Yesterday, Sibal submitted the background of the case along with the date of events. He also questions that, how the Magistrate denies taking evidence, if not related to Gulbarg? “The matter was relegated back to the Magistrate. The Magistrate said that he doesn’t have the power and he said that he won’t act on the protest petitions. The magistrate is duty-bound to take note of the information and take cognizance, even if SIT said no case has been made out. This is wholly irrelevant. Neither the Magistrate nor the revisional court has done that. Tell me if any court has ever denied looking at the shreds of evidence. If I can provide information to the Magistrate, the Magistrate is duty-bound to take cognizance.”
Sibal also revealed that the official report from the sting operation by Ashish Khetan, who was then with Tehelka magazine, had been denied and it was not taken into consideration.
Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat when the riots took place arguably the worst communal pogrom witnessed in India since the 1984 anti-Sikh riots which claimed over 2000 lives of people of the minority Muslim community.