Gujarat Riots: SC Dismisses Zakia Jafri's Plea Against SIT Clean Chit to PM Modi
Zakia Jafri had challenged the clean chit given by the SIT to the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Claiming that the appeal was "devoid of merits," the Supreme Court, on Friday, 24 June, upheld the magistrate's decision to accept the final report submitted by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) in the 2002 Gujarat riots case.
The order came on a petition filed by Zakia Jafri – wife of Congress MP Ehsan Jafri who was killed in the Gulbarg Society massacre during the riots. She had challenged the clean chit given by the SIT to the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and others in the alleged larger conspiracy behind the riots. Jafri had also sought a probe in the purportedly larger conspiracy.
Pronouncing the operative part of the order, the top court also said that they do not "countenance" the submission of the petitioner regarding infraction of rule of law during the probe.
“We do not countenance the submission of the appellant regarding infraction of rule of law in the matter of investigation and the approach of the Magistrate and the High Court in dealing with the final report.”
The apex court had reserved judgment in the matter on 9 December.
What Does the Judgment Say?
The Supreme Court bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari, and CT Ravikumar, in the judgment, credited the SIT’s final report – dated 8 February 2021 – as being backed by firm logic, exposits analytical mind, and deals with all aspects objectively.
Noting that the “SIT had formed its opinion after considering all the materials collated during the investigation,” the top court also said:
“The question of further investigation would have arisen only on the availability of new material/information in connection with the allegation of larger conspiracy at the highest level, which is not forthcoming in this case. Hence, the final report, as submitted by the SIT, ought to be accepted as it is, without doing anything more.”
The Supreme Court further said:
“Intriguingly, the present proceedings have been pursued for last 16 years, including with the audacity to question the integrity of every functionary involved in the process of exposing the devious stratagem adopted (to borrow the submission of learned counsel for the SIT), to keep the pot boiling, obviously, for ulterior design.”
“As a matter of fact, all those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law,” the court added.
Bias, 'Collaborative Exercise': What the Petitioner's Counsel Alleged
Appearing for Jafri, senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, had during the course of the hearing, alleged:
The SIT investigation indicated bias, and that they did not examine all the available material
State had aided in propagating hate during the time of the riots
Sibal pointed out that brutal visuals were flashed on TV channels, material pushing for economic boycott of Muslims was circulated, and “mutilated pictures of Sabarmati Express, pamphlets of do-it-yourself brutalities were circulated.”
“The material was given to the SIT, they never looked at it," he had alleged, according to Bar and Bench.
He also claimed that there were electronic records, including call data records of senior police officials, and mobs identifying houses belonging to Muslims – evidence which, the senior advocate said, pointed towards conspiracy.
Stating that the SIT itself should be probed for coming up with conclusions contrary to what the facts were, he went on to allege that they did not investigate, but participated in a 'collaborative exercise,’ in a bid to protect the conspirators.
State & SIT's Defence
Meanwhile, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Gujarat government, said that the State did "everything it could."
Further, appearing on behalf of the SIT, senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, according to LiveLaw, said that the SIT did its job and even often exceeded the remit set out by the apex court, in pursuit of justice.
Aspersions were also cast by Rohatgi, that the petition was not being driven by Jafri, but by petitioner number two Teesta Setalvad (a civil rights activist and journalist) in pursuit of ulterior motives.
(With inputs from LiveLaw and Bar and Bench.)
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