The legal experts in Gujarat are shocked and surprised over the State government's claim of having destroyed certain documents related to the 2002 communal riots in the State.
“It cannot be a standard procedure. You cannot destroy the relevant documents when the G. T. Nanavati – Akshay Mehta Judicial Enquiry Commission probing into the Godhra train carnage and the post-Godhra communal riots in the State is yet to submit its final report,” noted advocate, Mukul Sinha, who represent the riot victims before the Commission said.
According to him, the responsibility of deciding the “relevance of a document” was left to the prosecution, which was the State government in the case of the Nanavati – Mehta commission, and it could not have overlooked the relevance of the telephone call register, police vehicle log books and the police movement diary for the Enquiry Commission to be destroyed before the probe panel completed its task.
“The State government is telling a lie that the documents have been destroyed as per the standard procedure,” Hiralal Gupta, the advocate for the Congress before the commission, alleged. He agreed that a rule existed to destroy “irrelevant police documents” after five years as claimed by the State government pleader before the Commission, S. B. Vakil, but the documents in question were not such “irrelevant documents” to be destroyed taking recourse to the “standard procedure.”
“The government is deliberately trying to hide the truth about Chief Minister Narendra Modi's “instructions” to the police to go soft on the Hindus during the 2002 communal riots for which it is now claiming that the records have been destroyed,” Mr. Gupta said.
Mr. Vakil told journalists on the sideline of the Commission session that several documents of 2002, particularly the telephone call register, the police vehicle long book and the officers' movement diaries, had been destroyed in 2007 as per the “standard procedure” to clear files more that five years old. He also alleged that the controversial State cadre IPS officer, Sanjiv Bhatt, filed the affidavit in the Supreme Court attributing “anti-minority” statements to Mr. Modi and claiming it to be his “personal knowledge” so late this year only because he knew that the documents relating to 2002 no longer existed and his claims and allegations could not be verified.
Mr. Vakil had also put the question to Mr. Bhatt during his cross-examinations as being a former Deputy Commissioner in the State Intelligence Bureau whether he was aware that the IB documents had been destroyed in 2007. Mr. Bhatt, however, said he was not aware of it and said it was the duty of the State government to preserve the relevant documents when the Commission was still seized of the task and different aspects of the communal riots were also being investigated under the direct supervision of the Supreme Court.
He also pointed out that on his own he never disclosed the “classified secrets” he was aware of as an IB officer, but presented the facts before the Supreme Court–appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) only after summoned by it and filed the affidavit before the apex court much later.
State Director General of Police Chittaranjan Singh when asked said, “everything has been done as per the laid out law and nothing has been done in violation of the legal provision.” Asked about the justification of the destruction of the documents of such controversial period, he chose not to comment.
But the same State government which was now claiming that some of the documents related to the 2002 communal riots had been destroyed, had told Mr. Bhatt last month that the documents he had asked for could not be provided to him under the secrecy law because these were “classified documents.” The government never claimed in its latter that the documents did not exist as per the “standard procedure” to destroy the documents after five years.
Among the documents sought by Mr. Bhatt and denied by the State government pertaining to the 2002 riots included incoming and outgoing telephone records registers of the State control room, duty register of state control room, staff attendance register of the State control room, movement diary of the state DGP and IGP, logbook of the official vehicle used by the DG and IGP, Vehicle logbook of the State Control Room (SCR), all dispatch books of the SCR, record of Secret Service Fund Disbursement to the State Intelligence Bureau, alert messages sent out by SCR, intelligence report received by the DG and IGP from all agencies including state intelligence bureau.
The Congress advocate also filed an application before the Commission seeking its “direction” to the government to submit a similar set of documents but for a limited period of February 27 to March 9, 2002. While the Commission was yet to take a decision on issuing such a directive, Mr. Gupta said the State government so far had not informed him that the documents he had sought for did not exist.
“The State government does not want to submit the documents before the XCommission because it knows that the telephone register, vehicle log book and movement diary will prove that Mr Bhatt was actually called to attend the controversial meeting at the Chief Minister's residence on the night of February 27 and that he actually travelled in the DGP's car with his own car following him to the CM's residence. This alone will establish his claim of being personally present at the meeting and take cognisance of his assertion that Mr. Modi did “direct” the police to “allow the Hindus to vent out their anger” as claimed by him in the affidavit before the Supreme Court,” Mr. Gupta said.