The Supreme Court Wednesday rejected a ‘fourth bullet theory’ and dismissed a petition seeking re-investigation into Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination.
The petition, filed by Mumbai-resident Pankaj Kumudchandra Phadnis, sought to reopen the matter claiming the Nathuram Godse was convicted for the crime “on the basis of the evidence of eye-witnesses who were present at the prayer meeting” where Gandhi was fired upon. Godse, a Hindu hardliner, had shot at Gandhi in the chest three times at point blank range.
“We are not prepared to accept the fourth bullet theory propounded by the petitioner. We consider the petitioner’s attempt to reopen this controversy as an exercise in futility,” a bench of Justices S A Bobde and L Nageswara Rao said.
The court turned down Phadnis’s plea to review the finding of Justice Jivanlal Kapur Commission, which inquired into the conspiracy behind the murder and indicted V D Savarkar. Interestingly, the bench observed: “The submission of the petitioner that Savarkar has been held guilty for the murder of Gandhiji is misplaced.”
It refused to go into the “correctness or fairness” of the findings in the Kapur report, and said: “That would be another exercise in futility and would none the less pan new fires of controversy.”
The court relied on the prosecution’s version and a report by senior advocate Amarendra Sharan, who was appointed Amicus Curiae to assist the court.
Recalling the evidence in the case, the court said the prayer meeting was attended by “innumerable people” and “each one of the eyewitnesses described how Godse moved forward and shot Gandhiji. All the evidence reveals that three shots entered the body.”
Phadnis, a researcher and co-founder of a trust by name Abhinav Bharat, had claimed that four bullets were fired at Gandhi. He produced some documents, including reports of the incident in some prominent newspapers, to support his claim. He sought a review of the Kapur Commission finding. Phadnis told the court that he had decided to move court after some research.
On this, the top court said: “We are, however, not satisfied that new research into a long concluded matter justifies a re-initiation of criminal investigation or that anything that might be stated should be allowed to reopen a case such as this. Criminal cases which result in conviction and even execution of death sentences and the demise of those who have served life sentences ought not to be reviewed, neither is there a provision in law for review.”
The bench noted Phadnis’s argument that the assassination was an event of far reaching consequence and the nation had the right to know the truth, but observed: “…such a right cannot be invoked where the truth is already well known merely because some academic research raises a different perspective in law. This would amount to reopening issues based on hearsay.”