Ending all speculation, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi appeared before the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team at its office in the old Secretariat building here on Saturday.

Mr. Modi reached the SIT office at 11.55 a.m. Five and a half hours later, he came out and said the questioning was “incomplete” and was likely to resume in the night. “I wanted this to be finished today itself so I have agreed to return here by about 9 p.m. to answer further questions,” Mr. Modi told waiting journalists before leaving the complex.

Sources said that inside the SIT office it was a “one-to-one” in-camera questioning. The questions were put by SIT officer A.K. Malhotra, retired DIG of the CBI, who is the officer investigating the Zakia Jaffrey complaint against Mr. Modi and 62 others in connection with the 2002 communal riots in the State. SIT chairman R.K. Raghavan, though in the city, was not present at the SIT office during the questioning and was reported to be monitoring the developments from the police officers' mess in Ahmedabad, where he was staying. No other SIT officer was present.

Mr. Modi was not aided by a lawyer.

He claimed that he was only issued a “letter” by the SIT to call on it on March 27 and “accordingly I have come here on the appointed date.” He said the SIT official had “detailed talks” with him but it was inconclusive and would return later in the night “in a bid to complete the process today itself, if possible.”

‘Spreading canards'

He reiterated that he always believed that the Constitution was supreme and as a citizen and as the Chief Minister he was “bound by it.” He said he always maintained that no one was above law and “my action and behaviour today is a stunning reply to those vested interests groups who were spreading canards against me.” He hoped that his appearance before the SIT would end this.

Apparently hitting out at some of his critics who had earlier alleged that the Gujarat cadre IPS officers in the SIT were “manoeuvrable,” Mr. Modi said none of the three State cadre IPS officers, who were members of the SIT, was present during the questioning. He pointed out that the SIT was appointed by the Supreme Court and was functioning directly under its supervision.

Mr. Modi said he was given a break after five and half hours of questioning as he had some other works to attend to and also because “possibly the SIT officer has to do some home work.” He declined to reveal what transpired inside or the nature of the questions asked.

On his part, Mr. Malhotra turned down all requests to meet journalists.