Gujarat Riots: Zakia Jafri Wants SC to Look Into SIT’s Clean Chit to Modi, Others, Says Report Not Justified

Zakia Jafri’s lawyer Kapil Sibal appearing before the supreme court has been arguing that the special investigation team’s (SIT) closure report into whether certain prominent persons can be held responsible for the 2002 Gujarat communal violence was not justified. Zakia’s husband and Congress leader Ehsan Jafri was one of 68 people killed during the riots on 28 February 2002.

Giving a clean chit to then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and 63 others, the SIT filed a closure report on 8 February 2012, saying there was “no prosecutable evidence” against them, which also included senior government officials. Later, both a magistrate’s court and the Gujarat high court had upheld the SIT’s report.

While the latter deals only with the massacre that took place at Gulberg Society, Zakia’s case isn’t the same. It’s an pin criminal and administrative liability and accountability in almost 300 incidents over 19 districts of Gujarat in 2002.

A human rights group Citizens for Justice and Peace led by activist Teesta Setalvad is another petitioner in this case.

While hearing the case on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Top Court bench consisting of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and C.T. Ravikumar said it would like to go through the closure report, along with the magistrate’s reasoning while accepting it.

Over the last three days in the court, Sibal has argued that the closure report does not mention several facts that the SIT had been made aware of. The petitioners had submitted a detailed complaint to the then DGP, P.C. Pande on 8 June 2006,he said. In more than 100 pages, the complaint detailed the ‘conspiracy’ they thought was at play after the Godhra train burning on 27 February 2002. They had also affixed evidence gathered from SIT probes earlier along with the complaint.

Sibal argued that the magistrate court and high court did not take account of the state’s responsibility in the matter. “The duty of the court…that’s the central question the lordships will have to decide…once the Magistrate receives information which according to us constitutes an offense, the Magistrate is duty-bound to not only look at the information but also take cognizance of the offense.”

All the evidence submitted to the SIT merited a thorough probe, yet a closure report was filed without proper investigation Sibal argued. “All we want is that our matter is looked at…if you don’t investigate, just file a closure report, where do we go? …This Republic is too great to deny a person justice.”

All the material provided, Sibal argued came from official sources such as records of the state intelligence bureau, the police exchanges and control rooms (PCR) documents, etc. However, the magistrate refused to look into the matter of the larger conspiracy.  “My lords, our case was that there was a larger conspiracy at play, where there was bureaucratic inaction, police complicity, hate speech and a conspired directed unleashing of violence. The Magistrate said I won’t look at it because the supreme court prevents me from doing that and only look at the Gulberg society case,” he argued before the Top Court bench.

Meanwhile, the petitioners argued that several facts that are widely known point to the fact t

hat there was a larger political conspiracy at play that both encouraged and allowed the communal violence to take place in Gujarat. “… the prelude and build-up of a volatile atmosphere prior to February 27, 2002, the post mortemsbeing conducted in the wide open in violation of statutory provisions, no preventive arrests and delayed implementation of a curfew in Ahmedabad despite widespread violence from February 27, 2002, onwards, among other issues,” the CJP has said to prove this

On Thursday, Sibal also argued that a private person, Jaydeep Patel, was handed the bodies of those killed in Godhra. “Question is, contrary to all rules of procedure, how was a dead body given to this individual through an official communication?” Sibal said, adding that it calls for serious investigation.

“By the time these bodies reached Ahmedabad the crowd had gathered. Who made phone calls? How did anyone know that Patel was taking dead bodies? I don’t know, but these have to be investigated. But SIT saying a departmental enquiry is not enough,” he submitted.

The SIT, responding to the petition has claimed before the Supreme court that it completed a probe before filing the closure report. “We will show you that we have faithfully investigated everything,” said Mukul Rohatgi, senior advocate appearing for the SIT.

However, the next hearing will continue on November 10.

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