Members,prosecutors and even amicus curiae were either dropped or opted out as charges flew thick
The unprecedented step of the Supreme Court,which on Thursday sidestepped its own Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the 2002 riots,was only a culmination of a slew of controversies that have dogged the SIT ever since it was formed in April 2008.
It all started with the inclusion of the then deputy superintendent of police and controversial investigation officer of the Godhra train burning incident,Noel Parmar,into the SIT. Parmar was the officer who floated the terror conspiracy theory in the case and booked the accused under controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). The Gujarat High Court later dropped POTA charges. Several persons,including the relatives of the accused in the case,had written to SIT chief R K Raghvan opposing Parmars inclusion in the team. Parmar was eventually dropped from the SIT.
The SIT ran into another controversy when some NGOs opposed the continuation of two of the SIT members,Gujarat-cadre IPS officers Geetha Johri and Shivanand Jha,on grounds of their official conduct. The SC then directed Raghvan to drop Johri and Jha from the SIT but Raghvan responded by asking the apex court to reconsider its decision. This led the SC to remark,We did not pass the order on the request of SIT chief,have we? What is the relevance of SIT chairman seeking to retain two of its members?
While Johri and Jha from dropped from the SIT on the SC orders,IPS officer Paramvir Singh,who replaced one of them,opted out soon after his inclusion.
The SIT also courted controversy over special public prosecutors (SPP) who were appointed under its recommendation. The SPP,R K Shah,and his assistant in the Gulberg Society killings case,Nayana Bhatt,had quit while complaining about SITs functioning. The two lawyers had particularly raised questions over the role played by one of the SIT members and a Gujarat-cadre officer,Ashish Bhatia.
The public prosecutors in the Ode killings case,C H Desai and M C Desai,had also withdrawn from the case midway. Even the SPP in the Naroda Gam killings case,Nigam Shukla,had opted out under controversial circumstances.
The appointments of the amicus curiae in the matter had also had its share of controversy. The original amicus curiae in the matter,Prashant Bhushan,was allowed to withdraw by the SC after the Gujarat government opposed his appointment,alleging he was biased and had strong views against Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
One other amicus curiae in the matter,senior SC counsel Harish Salve,also withdrew from the matter after facing criticism for having a conflict of interest.
SIT chief R K Raghvan has also been under fire from political parties,NGOs and victims of the 2002 riots. Besides being accused of shielding Narendra Modi,Raghvan has also drawn criticism for not probing into the larger conspiracy behind the 2002 riots.
The Gujarat-cadre IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt,who is now in the eye of a storm over his affidavit linking Modi to the 2002 riots,has also accused SIT led by Raghvan of disregarding the information he was providing against Modi as a witness.