The Gujarat High Court on Thursday upheld the judgment of a metropolitan court that accepted a clean chit to the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi and 60 others in connection with the 2002 post-Godhra riots, and rejected Zakia Jafri’s allegations that the riots were part of a “larger conspiracy”.
A single-judge bench of Justice Sonia Gokani partly allowed the petition of Zakia—wife of former Congress MP Ahsan Jafri who along with 68 others was killed in the Gulberg Society massacre — observing that the metropolitan court was wrong in stating it did not have power to order further investigation into the allegations as sought by the petitioner.
The Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team (SIT) in its closure report had given a clean chit to Modi and the others, including top officials and policemen, in the 2002 riots, citing lack of “prosecutable evidence” against them.
Reading the operative part of her judgment in court, Justice Gokani said that Zakia’s petition succeeds in one aspect, that is “the metropolitan court has self-limited itself in saying that further investigation, in this case, can’t be ordered. This order of the lower court deserves interference.”
However, she said “there is no scope to send the matter back to the metro court”.
Justice Gokani also said that the petitioners —- Zakia and activist Teesta Setalvad —- can raise this aspect in the Gulberg Society massacre appeal petition, which is being heard in the High Court.
This observation was regarding the SIT’s stand that Zakia’s allegation had been probed as part of the Gulberg Society case investigation as ordered by the Supreme Court. Her lawyer had maintained that there was no point approaching the High Court in the Gulberg appeal petition.
“The order allows us to approach the appropriate court, that would include the magisterial court, the High Court or the Supreme Court. Since today’s order clearly says that magistrate has power to order further probe, we will approach it again. Had the magistrate used the power under the law by way of further investigation, the larger conspiracy would have been unearthed,” said Zakia’s advocate M M Tirmizi.
Regarding Thursday’s ruling, Zakia’s son Tanvir was quoted by PTI as saying: “My mother sees this verdict as a victory, as the High Court today made it clear that the lower court was wrong when it said it does not have the power to ask the SIT to investigate the matter further. We are happy my mother’s plea was partially allowed.”
The order comes three years after the petitioners moved the High Court against the judgment of the metropolitan court in 2013. The lower court had rejected her protest petition against the SIT’s closure report.
Five years after the riots, Zakia had alleged that cases such as Naroda Patiya, Naroda Gam and Gulberg were part of a larger conspiracy, and made allegations against Modi and the officers from the state machinery.