Police records of the Gujarat riots, which were claimed to have been destroyed in the routine course, have suddenly surfaced after nine years. In a curious but potentially far-reaching development, PC Pande, who was commissioner of Ahmedabad during the 2002 carnage, is learnt to have submitted over 3,000 pages of scanned copies of those records before the Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team (SIT).
This change followed the Supreme Court’s order on March 15 directing the SIT, headed by former CBI director RK Raghavan, to conduct a further probe on the alleged complicity of the Narendra Modi administration in the riots because of a mismatch between its findings and inferences.
One such mismatch was that the SIT did not recommend that any of the high-ups be booked for destruction of evidence even after it had acknowledged the charge made by the complainants, Zakia Jafri and Teesta Setalvad, that vital records pertaining to the riots had been destroyed to shield the culprits.
Pande’s belated submission of scanned copies came to light on April 11 as the SIT official probing the complaint alleging larger conspiracy, AK Malhotra, informed Setalvad about it while recording her statement. Malhotra stopped Setalvad from dwelling on the charge of destruction of evidence saying that, thanks to Pande’s unexpected move, a lot of records were now available, even if they were only scanned copies in a CD.
Though this disclosure could change the complexion of the case, Setalvad, in a letter to Malhotra on April 20, urged the SIT to exercise caution in dealing with the evidence produced by Pande, who, after his stint as commissioner of Ahmedabad in 2002, went on to become DGP of Gujarat and is now, after his retirement from IPS, chairman of the state police housing corporation.
Pande, like other officials, had earlier maintained before the SIT that many of the police records were unavailable as they had ostensibly been destroyed due to the passage of time. The officials could never give a plausible explanation for not preserving the documents that could have a vital bearing on the criminal investigations, trial proceedings and judicial inquiries related to the 2002 violence.
For all its significance, the resurrection of records through Pande’s CD of scanned pages raises questions about whether he had a change of heart or it was a covert attempt to save his skin or it was part of a fresh strategy adopted by the Modi government.
“I have nothing to say,” Pande asserted, when TOI asked him about his CD to SIT. Raghavan did not respond to an email sent on Friday morning asking him about the nature of the records revealed by Pande and their impact on the SIT’s probe on the conspiracy behind the post-Godhra riots. TOI