The Supreme Court, which is seized of a petition seeking re-investigation into the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, was on Monday told that there were some crucial documents procured from the USA’s Library of Congress which showed evidence of a “larger conspiracy” behind the killing of the Father of the Nation. A bench comprising Justices S A Bobde and L Nageswara Rao said such material has to be brought before it along with an application.
Mumbai-based Dr Pankaj Phadnis, a trustee of charitable trust Abhinav Bharat who has filed a petition in this regard, told the bench that the documents, which he had received from the USA, contained material which are “banned” by the government here. He said he has also got a letter from a US-based attorney who has said that forensic evidence could be obtained in the case.
“We will see this. It seems attractive but we will see whether it can be done,” the bench told him after he referred to the letter by an attorney regarding admissibility of evidence in courts in New York.
The bench said that now with technology, it was possible to get the forensic evidence but it would see whether the case was required to be re-investigated.
At the outset, the bench told Phadnis and senior advocate Amarender Sharan, who is assisting the court as an amicus curiae in the matter, that it would hear arguments in the matter on a ‘non-miscellaneous day’.
Phadnis, who appeared in person in the case, told the bench that he had returned from New York and got documents related to the case from the Library of Congress.
“This (documents) shows evidence of larger conspiracy in Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. Government of India has banned this. I have got these documents from the USA. I have also filed a petition in the Bombay High Court to lift the ban,” he told the bench while seeking to place on record the documents which were in a sealed cover.
However, the apex court asked him to file the material along with an application to produce the documents on record. “If you want to produce something in the court, you tell us what it is, why it was not produced in court earlier and what is its bearing in your case,” the bench said.
The petitioner said if he opened the seal of the documents, it might be an offence since the government has banned these documents in India. The bench asked him to file the documents with an application and posted the matter for hearing on March 6. The top court had earlier asked him to satisfy it on the aspects of delay and his locus to raise the issue, while making it clear that it would only go by law and not the stature of the person involved in the case.
Phadnis has sought re-opening of investigation on several grounds claiming it was one of the biggest cover-ups in the history. The amicus had filed a report in the court saying there was no need to re-investigate Mahatma’s assassination case as the conspiracy behind the murder and identity of assailant Nathuram Vinayak Godse who had fired the bullets have already been duly established.
However, the petitioner had later claimed in his affidavit that the alleged conspirators were hanged even before the murder trial had attained legal finality from the top court.
Gandhi was shot dead at point blank range in New Delhi on January 30, 1948 by Godse, a right-wing advocate of Hindu nationalism. The assassination case had led to the conviction and execution of Nathuram Vinayak Godse and Narayan Apte on November 15, 1949.
The petitioner has questioned the ‘three bullet theory’ relied upon by various courts to hold conviction of Godse and Apte, who were hanged, and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar who was given benefit of doubt due to lack of evidence.
Phadnis has challenged the decision of the Bombay High Court which on June 6, 2016 had dismissed his plea on two grounds — firstly, that the findings of fact have been recorded by the competent court and confirmed right up to the apex court, and secondly, the Kapur Commission has submitted its report and made observations in 1969, while the present petition has been filed 46 years later.