Even as the victims' families voiced dismay at the Supreme Court's Monday judgment on the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat, Bharatiya Janata Party leaders expressed delight at the verdict.
Zakia Jafri, who had petitioned the Supreme Court for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and 63 others to be investigated for their complicity in the murder of her husband by a mob, voiced frustration and dismay at the verdict.
“What should I expect from the lower court if I did not get justice from the Supreme Court,” Ms. Jafri asked “I am totally disappointed.” However, Ms. Jafri said she did not intend to “give up” her struggle and would continue to fight for justice.
Few families of other riot victims were willing to discuss the judgment on record, but many appeared to share Ms. Jafri's disappointment. Imtiaz, a relative of one of those killed with Mr. Jafri at the Gulberg Society apartment complex in Ahmedabad, said the victims' families “never trusted the courts in Gujarat, but now the Supreme Court has sent us back to them.”
S.M. Vora, lawyer representing the victims in the court trying those so far charged with a role in the massacre, took a more nuanced position. He said, “There is no question of anyone winning or losing.” “For any criminal trial against anyone,” he explained, “the case has to come first to a magistrate's court, so the Supreme Court's order is on expected legal lines.”
Tanvir Jafri, Ms. Jafri's son, said he was “satisfied” with the order.
BJP leaders, who feared that the Supreme Court might order the prosecution of Mr. Modi, were happy. Gujarat Health Minister Jaynarayan Vyas, State government spokesperson, said the verdict had “completely rooted out” the serious allegations against the Chief Minister. Furthermore, “the Supreme Court has expressed full confidence in the judicial process of Gujarat,” he said.
Mr. Vyas also said, “Certain elements are working hard to obstruct the judicial process by any means and to give a political tint to these cases.” These elements, he said, “never wanted [the] victims to get justice, and therefore, even after so many years of the incidents, kept coming up with new allegations.”
Gujarat BJP spokesman Vijay Rupani said the verdict was a victory for Mr. Modi and the State government, and a “slap in the face of his detractors.”
Mr. Modi himself refused to comment on the issue, but a three-word statement published on his Twitter feed a couple of hours after the judgment made clear his relief: “God is great.”
Congress disputes claim
The State unit of the Congress, however, disputed claims that Mr. Modi had been given a clean chit. Shaktisinh Gohil, Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly and a lawyer, argued that the BJP was “misrepresenting” the Supreme Court's order.
In fact, Mr. Gohil said, “The State police had refused to take any complaint against the Chief Minister and others, but now under the Supreme Court order, the magisterial court will have to take cognizance of both the reports of the Special Investigation Team and the court's amicus curiae.”