The Nanavati Commission,probing the 2002 post-Godhra riots,was only a “fact-finding” body with no power to enforce or implement its recommendations,the Gujarat High Court said today.
This observation was made by a Division Bench of justices Akil Kureshi and Sonia Gokani,while rejecting an NGO’s petition seeking direction to the two-member probe panel to summon Chief Minister Narendra Modi for questioning regarding the riots triggered by Godhra train carnage.
The court,while dismissing the petition of Jan Sangharsh Manch (JSM),also declined to interfere with the Commission’s proceedings,saying inquiry was yet to conclude and it cannot be subjected to judicial scrutiny at this stage.
It noted the state government-appointed Commission had wide discretionary powers to regulate its own procedures.
JSM,representing some riot victims,had moved the HC in 2010 seeking quashing of the judicial panel’s order of not summoning Modi. It had sought direction to issue summons to the chief minister and five others for cross-examination with regard to the communal violence in which over 1,000 people were killed.
“The Commission is only a fact-finding body and it has to collect evidence and make recommendations. It has no power to enforce or implement such recommendations,” the court said.
“At this stage,even before completion of proceedings of the Commission,we do not find that its tentative conclusions are open to judicial scrutiny… we are not inclined to interfere,at least at this stage,” the judges noted.
The HC said the Commission,comprising Justices G T Nanavati and Akshay Mehta,has recorded its reasons,exercised discretion and did not find it proper to grant request of JSM for cross-examination of Modi and others.
Before concluding its judgement,the HC acknowledged JSM was a group which had participated in the proceedings of the Commission,led evidence,examined witnesses and was allowed to cross-examine as many as 80 witnesses by the panel.
It said the reason why Commission had rejected JSM’s plea to summon and cross-examine Modi and others on the ground that it did not fall under the three categories envisaged under Section 8C of the Commissions of Inquiry Act,that is the government,persons referred in Section 8B of the Act and other persons whose evidence is recorded by the Commission.
“The Commission was of the opinion that JSM would not fall in these categories merely because JSM had examined its own Convenor and members before the Commission,” it said.
In September 2009,the Commission had rejected JSM’s application seeking summoning of Modi and five others saying they did not find justification in the plea.
In November 2009,the NGO moved the HC for quashing of the order but a single bench of Justice K S Jhaveri dismissed its plea terming it as “premature”.
In 2010,JSM filed an appeal before the Division Bench against the single Judge order. Mukul Sinha,counsel for JSM,had argued that summoning of Modi and others was required for collecting evidence with regard to the Godhra train burning incident and the riots.
The State Government had opposed JSM’s plea contending the NGO had no locus standi to seek summoning of Modi. Kamal Trivedi,Advocate General,had submitted that the appeal is not maintainable under law as the Commission’s Act does not allow any third party to demand for questioning of any person.
He had said it is for the Commission to decide whom it should call for questioning.