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On hold for 7 yrs,probe picks up Gujarat riot phone CDs

A set of CDs containing mobile phone records of all calls made in Ahmedabad during the 2002 Gujarat riots,ignored by at least one probe panel but preserved by an IPS officer....

Written by Vikram Rautela | Ahmedabad |
February 6, 2009 2:38:37 am

A set of CDs containing mobile phone records of all calls made in Ahmedabad during the 2002 Gujarat riots,ignored by at least one probe panel but preserved by an IPS officer,is now helping the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team in the reinvestigation of the ten worst riot cases.

While the Justice G T Nanavati Commission,probing the Godhra incident and the post-Godhra riots,declined to consider the mobile phone records on the ground that it could be legally challenged,the Justice U C Banerjee Commission,which went into the Godhra attack,was said to have taken note of the details but did not place it on record.

Highly placed sources told The Indian Express today that the SIT has taken full cognizance of these CDs without questioning their authenticity.

In November 2004,it was an investigation by The Indian Express which first highlighted the mobile phone details in a six-part series (Three years later,when cellphones ring: Who spoke to whom when Gujarat was burning). The CDs contain records of all cellphone calls made in Ahmedabad from February 25,2002 (two days before the attack on the Sabarmati Express) to March 4.

The Indian Express investigation found that top police officers were in touch with some of the riot-accused,that BJP MLA Maya Kodnani and VHP leader Jaydeep Patel — both have now been declared absconders — were in the riot-hit areas at the time of the massacres,and that top police officers knew ex-Congress MP Ehsan Jafri was being burnt but did nothing to help him.

IPS officer Rahul Sharma,now a DIG with the CBI (Economic Offences) in Mumbai,had submitted copies of the CDs to the SIT in June 2008 when he was called to depose. As DCP (Control Room) in Ahmedabad,he had tracked the phone records and compiled them in CDs.

“I had submitted copies of these CDs before the Justice Nanavati and Justice Banerjee inquiry commissions. This was the third set of copies I had with me,” Sharma said in his statement to the SIT.

The SIT has relied heavily on the interpretation of the data in the CDs. “It took us almost six months to analyse this huge data. It was on the basis of these findings that we got a clear picture of who was where on February 28,2002 and we prepared questionnaires for the accused and suspects accordingly,” said an SIT officer who did not wish to be identified.

In October 2004,Sharma,appearing before the Nanavati Commission,caused a stir when he took out copies of the CDs from a bag and placed it before the panel. Shunted to Surat after the riots,Sharma kept a copy of the CDs. “The Nanavati Commission never used these CDs as a piece of evidence. Part I of the report which was tabled in the state Assembly last year makes no mention of these CDs,” said Mukul Sinha,advocate for rights group Jan Sangharsh Manch.

In 2005,Sharma submitted copies of the CDs to the Banerjee Commission. “Since the inquiry commission focused only on the Godhra carnage,these records,which mainly contained calls made in and around Ahmedabad,were not of much use to the Commission though it did take note of these CDs,” said the SIT officer.

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