Gujarat Riots: SC Rejects Plea Challenging SIT’s Clean Chit To PM Modi, 64 Others

Gujarat Riots: SC Rejects Plea Challenging SIT's Clean Chit To PM Modi, 64 Others
At least 69 people were killed in the Gulberg Society, in Ahmedabad, during the communal riots that ensued after the 2002 Godhra train massacre | Image source: DNA India

The Supreme Court has dismissed a petition by Zakia Jafri, who contested the clean chit provided by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and others, in the 2002 Godhra massacre related riots. Zakia is the widow of Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, who was slain during the 2002 post-Godhra violence at the Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad. Modi, who was the Gujarat chief minister at the time, was accused of doing little to halt the “anti-Muslim riots”, a charge he has consistently denied.

The Ahmedabad Metropolitan Magistrate’s decision to accept the closure report provided by the SIT, which was ordered by the top court, was sustained, according to the Indian Express. Zakia Jafri’s protest appeal was denied by a bench chaired by Justice AM Khanwilkar as according to the Supreme Court, it was “devoid of merit and deserves to be dismissed”.

When delivering his judgement, Justice Khanwilkar said, “We do not countenance the contention of the petitioner regarding infraction of rule of law in the investigation and the approach of the Magistrate and the High Court in dealing with the final report.” The bench further said, “We uphold the decision of the Magistrate in accepting the final report submitted by the SIT and rejecting the protest petition.”

The judgement was made in response to Zakia’s appeal against the Gujarat High Court’s order upholding the Magistrate Court’s acceptance of the closure report from October 5, 2017. The Supreme Court had reserved judgement on the plea on December 9 last year. The SIT had stated during the hearing in the top court that nobody had objected to the investigation into the 2002 Gujarat riots, save from Zakia Jafri’s appeal. Her attorney, former Congress leader Kapil Sibal, had previously stated that the complaint she made in 2006 was part of a bigger plot involving police involvement, hate speech, and the escalation of violence.

When the S-6 coach of the Sabarmati Express carrying karsevaks returning from Ayodhya was set ablaze in Godhra, on February 26, 2002, it resulted in 59 fatalities, giving rise to communal riots across the states. On February 28, in the late afternoon, a crowd invaded the Gulberg Society and lynched Ehsan Jafri, with about 68 others.

An impartial SIT that the Supreme Court constituted in 2008 first looked into the violence with the Gujarat Police before doing so. Prime minister Modi and 63 other people, including senior government officials, received a clean chit from the SIT in a report that was submitted on February 8, 2012, which noted that there was “no prosecutable evidence” against them.

In 2018, Zakia Jafri submitted a petition to the Supreme Court. The appeal argued that she had filed a protest petition, which the magistrate dismissed, without giving it “substantiated merits” after the SIT gave the trial judge a clean chit in its closure report. Zakia complained to the court during the hearing that the SIT had ignored her complaints and other pertinent information. “The SIT had arrived at the conclusion that no case was made out,” she argued.

The complainant further claimed that this finding was accepted by the magistrate and mistakenly reiterated by the High Court, despite a significant amount of documentation and contemporaneous evidence that existed, which meritoriously made out a triable case against all the accused. The SIT “collaborated” with the accused, she added. The investigating team, however, rejected these allegations, and said that it had “faithfully investigated everything”.


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