Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has responded to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) summons by saying he is ready to make an appearance provided the team's investigators are convinced of the propriety of interrogating him on March 27 when an appeal on their remit is due to be heard by the Supreme Court on April 5.
On Monday, Mr. Modi decried what he said were false reports about the Special Investigation Team asking him to appear before it. But his lawyer, Mahesh Jethmalani, confirmed to The Hindu on Tuesday both the existence of the summons and the fact that the Gujarat Chief Minister had sent in his reply the day before.
In his response, Mr. Modi drew attention to a recent petition filed on behalf of BJP MLA Kalu Bhai Maliwad questioning the legality of the SIT's probe against 63 persons mentioned in a complaint by Zakia Jaffrey. With the Supreme Court set to hear the Maliwad plea on April 5, the Chief Minister thought it best to wait till after that date. But if the SIT feels there is no problem in proceeding with its work, said Mr. Jethmalani, the Chief Minister was prepared to appear before it on March 27 or any other mutually acceptable date.
On their part, SIT sources told The Hindu that since the Supreme Court had only admitted Mr. Maliwad's petition but not granted a stay, the team's probe would continue unhindered. They said they hoped Mr. Modi would appear before the SIT on March 27, the date indicated in their summons. The Hindu, which broke the news of the summons, had earlier incorrectly reported the date for Mr. Modi's scheduled appearance as March 21.
The SIT was set up by the Supreme Court to ensure proper prosecution of cases stemming from the 2002 communal violence in Gujarat in which more than 1500 people, most of them Muslim, were killed. In addition to these cases, the SIT was tasked with examining the complaint filed by Ms. Jaffrey and the Citizens for Justice and Peace alleging the complicity of Mr. Modi and senior politicians and officials in the pogrom.
Zakia Jaffrey is the widow of the former Congress Member of Parliament, Ehsan Jaffrey, who was killed by a mob along with 68 other people at the Gulberg housing society in Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002. The trial in that case, which the SIT has probed independently of Ms. Jaffrey's separate complaint against Mr. Modi, is currently on hold because of the resignation of the special prosecutor and his assistant. Both have alleged bias on the part of the trial judge and have also accused the SIT of not properly coordinating their efforts with them.
The Supreme Court asked the SIT to report back to it on Ms. Jaffrey's complaint by April 30. Many of those named by her have already been questioned by its investigators. Mr. Modi is one of the last to be summoned.