No larger conspiracy behind 2002 Godhra riots: SIT court

Zakia Jafri, wife of Congress MP Ahsan Jafri who was killed in the Gulberg violence, had filed a complaint alleging such a conspiracy and accused the then chief minister Narendra Modi and others of orchestrating the riots.

Written by Satish Jha | Ahmedabad | Updated: June 18, 2016 6:29:45 am
Gulberg, Gulberg society, Gulbarg society convict, gulbarg verdict, gulbarg convict, 2002 riots, 2002 riots godhra, 2002 riots constpiracy, gujarat 2002 riots Gulberg society massacre convict being escorted by police at the SIT court after the announcement of quantum of sentence in Ahmedabad on Friday. (PTI Photo)

Dismissing the allegations of a “larger conspiracy” behind the post-Godhra riots, including the Gulberg Society massacre, involving politicians and government machinery, special designated judge P B Desai said in his judgment that “the controversy, in my opinion, has been laid to rest and is required to be given its due burial”.

The prosecution made no attempt to establish that the government machinery and senior police officers were part of the conspiracy on account of their inaction.

The judge opined on the allegations of a larger conspiracy, saying, “…much attempts have been made to rake up this issue time and again, applications were tendered in the course of the present proceedings and independent proceedings have been initiated to seek reliefs under Section 319 of CrPC to arraign as co-accused senior police officers and other government officials, and such proceedings have been found to be without merit by all courts at all levels, including the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.”

Zakia Jafri, wife of Congress MP Ahsan Jafri who was killed in the Gulberg violence, had filed a complaint alleging such a conspiracy and accused the then chief minister Narendra Modi and others of orchestrating the riots.

The Supreme Court appointed-Special Investigation Team (SIT), which probed the case, gave a clean chit to all the accused, stating that no evidence was found to establish conspiracy. Zakia has challenged the clean chit before the Gujarat High Court, where the matter is pending.

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The judgment stated that “no material has been considered even prima facie worthwhile to arraign such senior police officers and government officials and politicians in power as accused in a number of proceedings, including the present proceedings, and in my opinion, therefore, it would be unsafe and improper to even have a further discussion on this aspect.”

“It is no doubt, not attempted to be established by the prosecution that the government machinery and senior police officers were in fact part of the conspiracy on account of their not having taken any action even when such carnages were taking place and it is the case of the victims that even government machinery and police officials were complicit, and thereby by their inaction are required to be held to be members of the conspiracy,” the judgment stated.

The court also criticised the prosecution for failing to establish the conspiracy angle. “…Even the learned special PP (public prosecutor) Shri R C Kodekar has not been able to advance for the prosecution evidence which would directly establish the elements of a pre-planned conspiracy having been hatched which resulted in the carnage at Gulberg Society,” it stated.

The judge also junked the evidence provided by Ashish Khetan in a sting operation he had carried out on the accused, saying that the entire transcript was not tendered either to the investigating agency or the court, and only the relevant parts have been placed before the court.

The court noted that the SIT did not bring any material before it that could establish a larger conspiracy. It did not believe the lone witness who testified that he heard his “two friends sitting in an auto-rickshaw talking about a meeting for conspiracy was to be held”. The court found such a testimony “ridiculous”.

The prosecution equally failed to establish circumstantial evidence to prove the conspiracy theory, the judgment said. “Criminal conspiracy can be proved largely by conduct and inference and is required to be established when a set of circumstances comes to light wherein the only inference that can be drawn by a prudent man is that there was a conspiracy and meeting of minds and the offence that took place was a consequence of such conspiracy and execution thereof.” The court said there was absolutely no material other than the stray evidence that was too untrustworthy.

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