The Supreme Court has asked the lower court in Gujarat to decide within four months the trial in a 2002 Gujarat riots case related to the Naroda Gam incident in which 11 persons were killed. A bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar was informed that the trial was in progress in the matter and defence evidence was being recorded by a special court in the state.
The top court asked the lower court to complete recording of evidence of the remaining defence witnesses in two months. “Under all circumstances, we hope and expect that the trial court shall render its judgment in the instant second matter within four months from today,” the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said. The bench was also informed that two out of the nine cases, which were probed by the SIT, were pending before the lower court.
Eleven persons belonging to the minority community were killed at Naroda Gam in 2002 riots during a bandh called to protest the Godhra train burning incident. The bench was informed that in one pending case, trial with respect to 60 persons had been concluded, of whom 24 were convicted and 36 acquitted. But the proceedings in connection with four delinquent juveniles in the Gulberg Society case were pending before the juvenile justice board (JJB).
Observing that the matter related to an incident which took place 15 years ago, the court asked the JJB to record evidence on a day-to-day basis if possible and expedite its disposal. It asked A K Malhotra, member of Special Investigation Team (SIT) which was constituted by the apex court to probe nine major post-Godhra riots cases including the Naroda Gam riots case, to place its order before the concerned trial court as well as the juvenile court.The court posted the matter after four months.
The apex court also listed for hearing after eight weeks a separate petition seeking compensation to family members of the deceased and other victims and departmental action against the policemen who had allegedly not carried out proper probe in nine cases which were later investigated by the CBI. The apex court had on April 13 allowed former top cop R K Raghavan, heading the SIT, to be relieved as its chief on health grounds. It had asked Malhotra to oversee the functioning of the probe team and file quarterly reports before it about the progress made in the pending riots cases.
In June last year, a special court had convicted 24 persons in the Gulberg society riots case in which 68 people, including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, were killed. The apex court has been monitoring nine sensitive cases after the National Human Rights Commission and various NGOs termed the investigation into these as shoddy and unreliable. The cases were about the riots in different parts of Gujarat, including the Gulberg Society, Ode, Sardarpura, Naroda Patya, Machipith, Tarsali, Pandarwada and Raghavapura.
An estimated 2,000 people were killed in post-Godhra riots in 2002.