SIT & take notice: Is special probe team lax in making watertight cases?

Although there is still no final word as to whether the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team...

Written by Vikram Rautela | Ahmedabad | Published:March 2, 2009 1:34 am

Most of the high profile accused have either not been arrested or have secured bail

Although there is still no final word as to whether the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT),re-investigating the ten most heinous riot cases of 2002,will seek another extension of its term,its alleged laxity in making arrests has raised questions.

The SIT submitted a status report on these cases before the Supreme Court earlier this month. The apex court is likely to review it on Monday.

Eyebrows have been raised as the SIT has failed to arrest not only state minister Dr Maya Kodnani but also many other riot accused. Apart from Kodnani,who is wanted by the SIT in connection with the Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gam riot cases,at least three accused have been granted anticipatory bail.

They are VHP leader Jaydeep Patel,wanted in the Naroda Gam case,BJP councillor from Naroda,Vallabh Patel,and one Pradeep Parmar,who is wanted in the Gulbarg Society massacre case. The SIT has moved Gujarat High Court against the bail granted to them. Also,most of those arrested by the SIT are now out on bail. The latest addition to this list is the suspended Valsad Deputy Superintendent of Police K G Erda.

SIT convenor and Rajkot Police Commissioner Geetha Johri refused to comment on the issue,saying that “the matter is now in the Supreme Court”. When asked as to why the SIT arrested only those who had surrendered,Johri said,“The concerned investigating officers (in SIT) would know about this better.”

The latest among those ‘wanting’ to surrender was VS Gohil,a Police Circle Inspector wanted in connection with the Naroda Gam case. Gohil was arrested on Friday after his dramatic bid to surrender before a magistrate backfired. The inspector interrupted the court,which was about to issue an arrest warrant in his name,and sought to surrender before the court. The magistrate refused to oblige and ordered the SIT to arrest him.

When asked as to why there was so much delay in effecting his arrest,Superintendent of Police and Investigating Officer P L Mal said,“We tried our best to track him,but he was not traceable.”

Kodnani,who was declared ‘absconder’ by the SIT,had appeared in public only after a lower court granted her an anticipatory bail. The minister had remained unfazed by some serious accusations against her by several witnesses. She is accused of inciting and leading mobs to attack people from the minority community. She was even allegedly seen with a pistol and a saffron band around her head,kerosene cans and rags stocked in her Maruti car,the day riots broke out in the state in February 2002.

Apart from Gohil,the other three arrests made in the case were of VHP leader Atul Vaidhya,councillors Bipin Patel and Chunnilal Prajapati,and Dilip Jhinger,after they had surrendered before the SIT. All have challenged a lower court’s order rejecting their bail pleas. Out of a total 28 arrested by the SIT in connection with the Naroda Gam case,24 are out on bail.

In the Naroda Patiya case,the SIT had arrested 17 people,of whom 10 are out on bail. Among the 17 who are in custody,three — P M Shah,Subhash Dargi and Ranchood Charra — were arrested after they surrendered. The trio has also moved court seeking bail.

No different is the case of those arrested in connection with the Gulbarg Society massacre that had claimed 39 lives,including that of Congress MP Ehsan Jafri. Of the 23 arrested in this case,14,including suspended DySP K G Erda,are out on bail.

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