Updated: December 8, 2021 8:00:51 am
The Gujarat government on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that the inquiry panel headed by Justice G T Nanavati, which examined the action taken by the state to prevent communal violence in the immediate aftermath of the 2002 Godhra train burning, had concluded that “all reasonable steps” were taken by the administration at the time.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Gujarat government, said that the commission of inquiry had said in its report that “all reasonable steps…keeping in mind the history of communal violence…were taken by the government and the police department”.
The court was hearing an appeal filed by Zakia Jafri, wife of late Congress MP Ehsan Jafri who was killed in the riots, challenging the Gujarat High Court order upholding the decision of the Metropolitan Magistrate Court in Ahmedabad to accept the closure report filed by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) giving a clean chit to the then state Chief Minister Narendra Modi and others in riot related cases.
“They collected voluminous documents and came to a conclusion…Regular police force was put on alert, the ones on leave were asked to join immediately”, Mehta said and pointed to the deployment of Rapid Action Force (RAF) and CRPF.
Pointing out that what happened on February 28, 2002, was unprecedented, he said those found guilty were convicted by judges appointed on the choice of the Chief Justice.
“It’s nobody’s case that guilty have gone unpunished…Convictions and acquittals have taken place,” he said opposing the the appeal.
Pointing out that activist Teesta Setalvad was petitioner number 2 in the Jafri matter, Mehta said “in the name of petitioner no 1, petitioner no 2 wants to keep the pot boiling… This would be a travesty of justice, which the court may not allow”.
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Jafri, took exception to the submission and pointed out that “in 2003, SC took the extraordinary step of staying 9 trials, but the argument is everything was ok”.
Then the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) came to the SC. “That’s how the appellant (Setalvad) became part of this, because she worked with NHRC, worked with amicus curiae, appeared in proceedings before this court…The SIT never took objection”.
He added that “suddenly her character is being smudged”.
The Gujarat government had on the previous date of hearing referred to alleged misuse of funds received by Setalvad’s NGO. On this, Sibal said “so called misuse of funds…some of these were awards given by international organisations to me… none of the donors ever complained, only Government of India complained..and the reason is nor far to see”.
“If everything was hunky dory in Gujarat, why would NHRC seek transfer of trials?” he asked.
Sibal further sought to know how an SIT appointed by the top court can dismiss tapes of the sting operation conducted by ‘Tehelka’ magazine as “unreliable”. He said people were convicted on the basis of these tapes.
“If you stoke the fire, the pot will boil. If you keep stoking the fire, the pot will continue to boil. That’s what’s happenning”, said Sibal.
Sibal pointed out that some of the senior police officials had recommended prosecution of ‘Sandesh’ newspaper for hate speech. “Why is SIT not prosecuting?…That’s why I said this is completely corrupt”, he said adding that “all those who recommended action are in the dock today. And all these accused are scot free”.
The SIT he said was saying that 2,000 hate speech cases are being prosecuted. “What is the status of those cases?…How is that relevant for these material of ours. When VHP says ‘khoon ka badla khoon (blood for blood)’, why are they not arrested?”.
The arguments remained inconclusive and will continue Wednesday.