In a major relief for Gujarat chief minister and BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi,a metropolitan court on Thursday rejected the protest petition filed by Zakia Jafri ,wife of late Congress MP Ehsan Jafri,against the clean chit given to him and others by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) in the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Pronouncing the order in an open court,Metropolitan Magistrate B J Ganatra told Zakias counsel Mihir Desai that her petition has been rejected and they have the liberty to approach a higher court.
Zakia,74,whose husband Ehsan Jafri was among the 68 people killed in the Gulbarg Society massacre here during the post-Godhra riots,had filed a protest petition on April 15 this year,objecting to the Supreme Court-appointed SIT’s closure report absolving Modi of complicity in the conspiracy behind the deaths.
Zakia,who was present in court on Thursday,broke down after the verdict was out and said she would appeal in a higher court.
The only hurdle in the acceptance of SITs recommendations was the protest petition… The protest petition was rejected,so obviously the SIT report has been accepted. SITs investigation,integrity,impartiality,all have been given a judicial stamp, said R S Jamuar,SITs counsel.
After completing its investigation on Zakias complaint,the SIT had filed its closure report on February 8 last year. It concluded that despite difficulties in obtaining evidence in the case because of the lapse of eight years,whatever material it could gather was not sufficient to prosecute those against whom allegations of hatching the conspiracy had been levelled.
Zakia had filed a complaint against 63 people,including Modi,his ministerial colleagues,top police officers and BJP functionaries,accusing them of a wider conspiracy in the riots which left more than 1,000 people dead,mostly Muslims.
The apex court had ordered an inquiry into Zakias complaint by an SIT headed by former CBI director R K Raghavan. The SIT had submitted its report to the Supreme Court after investigations into the complaint. It had interrogated several people,including Modi.
The Supreme Court,after going through the report,had asked amicus curiae Raju Ramchandran to independently verify the SIT investigations. Ramchandran had also submitted his report to the Supreme Court and,according to Zakia,it had sufficient grounds to put Modi and others on trial.
After going through both the reports,the Supreme Court had on September 12,2011 directed the SIT to submit the final report along with the entire material collected during the investigation to the metropolitan court.
Reacting to Thursdays verdict,SIT chief Raghavan said he felt vindicated and professionally satisfied. In a sense I feel vindicated. Professionally I am extremely satisfied that our hard work has been upheld by the Ahmedabad court, he said.
It was extremely hard work under tremendous adverse circumstances. I dont want to go into those adverse circumstances,you know what it is… We did a thorough job. I am happy that the court has approved our work, he said.
Referring to accusations of bias,he said,I am apolitical,I am a former CBI director. I have no views on politics. I looked at it from the narrow point of view of the SIT. A job was given by the Supreme Court and we did that, he said.
During the arguments that continued for five months almost on a daily basis,SIT counsel R S Jamuar had sought rejection of Zakias petition saying no direct or circumstantial evidence had been found which could prima facie link Modi and others to the conspiracy behind the riots.
The SIT,during its submissions and replies to issues raised by Zakia,had contended that no evidential value could be attached to the testimonies given by three IPS officers R B Sreekumar,Sanjeev Bhatt and Rahul Sharma,who she had cited as witnesses. The SIT had said these officers held a grudge against the state government and accused them of conspiring to fabricate evidence to malign Modi.
Jamuar also said that SIT was never asked to probe the conspiracy angle of the post-Godhra riots by the Supreme Court,and it would have been unconstitutional to do so.
However,Zakias lawyers argued that the SIT ignored the evidence and material against those named in the complaint and even alleged that it was shielding the main culprits behind the riots. The SIT,instead of functioning like an independent investigating agency,has been doing the job of shielding the powerful accused, her advocate Mihir Desai had said.