The Supreme Court’s special investigation team (SIT) has rejected IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt’s claim that he heard Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi instructing authorities not to stop anti-Muslim violence in the wake of killing of karsevaks at Godhra.
The SIT led by former CBI chief R K Raghavan examined Bhatt’s claim that he was present in the meeting where Modi allegedly instructed officials not to stop Hindus from venting their anger over the killing of 57 karsevaks in the Godhra train fire. The investigators concluded that the IIT-educated IPS officer was lying, according to sources.
Sources also said that in its report to Supreme Court, SIT said Bhatt’s motives in levelling the allegation nine years after the purported meeting needed to be looked into. Bhatt has also been accused of tutoring his driver to support the officer’s claim about his presence in Modi’s meeting with officials.
In its April 25 report to the apex court, the SIT stuck to its initial finding that there was not enough evidence to prosecute Modi for his alleged role in the communal violence. The SIT was asked by SC to probe further after amicus curiae, senior advocate Raju Ramachandran , expressed dissatisfaction over the “no prosecutable evidence against Modi’ determination it made in the report submitted in November last year.
On Thursday, a bench of Justices D K Jain, P Sathasivam and Aftab Alam gave enough indication to suggest that the SIT had not changed its original finding. However, the bench made it plain that it will not go solely by the SIT report, and gave the amicus curiae eight weeks to independently examine witnesses.
The amicus curiae will analyze the report of the SIT in the light of statements of witnesses and have his own independent assessment on the entire evidence which has come on record. If the amicus curiae finds that any offence is made out against any person, he should mention the same in the report to the court to be submitted within eight weeks. Even regarding Bhatt, the court said it had not come to any conclusion yet and that Ramachandran could look into the issue.
The issue of Modi’s direct complicity arises from the allegation of Jakia Jafri, widow of Ehsan Jafri who was killed by a mob in the Gulbarg Society massacre in 2002 violence.
Appearing for Jafri, senior advocate Shanti Bhushan demanded copies of the SIT reports to be able to assist the court in the case. The court said if the SIT report was given to the complainant, then it would have to be given to Gujarat government. “That is why we have asked the amicus curiae to examine every aspect of the matter and give us an independent view,” it said.
Not satisfied, Bhushan said, “This means the court does not want the complainant to have any access to the SIT reports, which is nothing but a cover-up job. We can demonstrate that a cover-up job is being done.”
Jafri’s complaint had given details of how systematically communal riots were allowed to go on in the state with the CM, cabinet ministers, police and bureaucracy abdicating their constitutional duty to protect life and property of citizens irrespective of their caste and religion.
Her charge against Modi read, “The constitutionally elected head of the state and responsible for fundamental rights, right to life and property of all citizens regardless of caste, community and gender… Alleged to be architect of a criminal conspiracy to subvert constitutional governance and the rule of law; unleashed unlawful and illegal practices during the mass carnage and thereafter protecting the accused who played direct as well as indirect role and abetted commission of the crime.”
In its report submitted to the apex court on November 26, 2010, the SIT had told the court that it had completed investigations into Jafri’s complaint and that it had found no substantial incriminating evidence against the CM.
Jafri’s complaint had identical charges against 15 cabinet ministers and MLAs. It said they, despite being under oath to defend and protect the lives and properties of all citizens, allegedly used “political influence to prevent administration and the law and order machinery from carrying out their constitutionally bound duty to prevent violence and protect the citizens”.
Apart from alleging grave dereliction of duty against Modi and 62 others including the collectors and SPs of every riot affected district, Jafri said there had been “deliberate attempts to scuttle most of the cases”.
Basing her complaint on extracts of affidavits given by senior police officials throwing light on alleged deliberate lethargy on the part of the administration to control the rampaging mobs, Jafri had alleged that terror reigned in the state and that the key witnesses were being cowered into silence. Economic Times