Even as the G.T. Nanavati-Akshay Mehta judicial inquiry commission probing the 2002 Gujarat communal riots hinted that Chief Minister Narendra Modi could be summoned for cross-examination, two senior government officials testified before it on Monday denying that Mr. Modi issued any “specific instructions” to the police in handling the riots.

The then Home Secretary, K. Nityanandam, and the then Additional Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, Anil Mukim, also contradicted IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's claim that he was “present” at a meeting convened by Mr. Modi at his residence on the night of February 27, 2002, in which the Chief Minister reportedly “instructed” the police officers to go soft on Hindu rioters.

“I am not aware of Mr. Modi having issued any such instructions,” Mr. Mukim said. Mr. Nityanandam maintained that the Chief Minister did not issue any “specific instructions” to the police but only “discussed” about the prevailing law and order situation in the light of the “Gujarat bandh” called for the next day.

Both Mr. Mukim and Mr. Nityanandam, who testified before the Commission separately, gave almost identical list of the officials present at the February 27 meeting. According to them, the only officials present at the meeting were the then acting Chief Secretary, Suvarnakanta Verma; Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Ashok Narayan; the then Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, P.K. Mishra; the then Director-General of Police, K. Chakravarthi; and the then Ahmedabad Police Commissioner, P.C. Pande.

Mr. Mukim said he was “briefly” present at the meeting at the beginning but left later. Mr. Nityanandam said “some officials of the CMO” kept “coming and going” from the meeting and “there was none else present.” He said neither the then Minister of State for Home, Gordhan Jhadaphia, nor the then Joint Secretary (Home) Prakash Shah, was present at the meeting. Also no member of the then Modi Cabinet was present.

“Knew Bhatt by face”

To a question by Congress' counsel Hiralal Gupta, Mr. Mukim said he never had any interaction with Mr. Bhatt but “knew” him “by face.”

Both Mr. Mukim and Mr. Nityanandam said they were not aware if any minutes of the meeting had been kept, and if so by whom, but insisted that they were not asked to sign any paper to indicate their presence in the meeting. “No such procedure was followed for such meetings then,” Mr. Nityanandam said.

When advocate for riots victims Mukul Sinha asked Mr. Nityanandam why was he called for the meeting as the Home Secretary he was not in charge of law and order, he said it was for Mr. Ashok Narayan to decide. “I was telephonically told by Mr. Narayan in my office to attend the meeting, and I attended,” he said.

Later Justice Nanavati, talking to Dr. Sinha and other advocates, dropped a broad hint about the possibility of summoning Mr. Modi. Stating that he was keen on winding up the proceedings of the commission at the earliest, Justice Nanavati told Dr. Sinha: “Now only one witness remains to be summoned after the then Health Minister, I.K. Jadeja — Mr. Narendra Modi.” Mr. Jadeja is due to appear before the Commission on September 5.

Dr. Sinha had demanded summoning of Mr. Modi and senior police and administrative officials for cross-examination.

A petition seeking a direction to the Commission to summon Mr. Modi is pending before the Gujarat High Court.