State government seeks explanation for his failure to deposit key evidence to crime branch

Apparently stung by the latest Tehelka expose about the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team's indictment of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the 2002 communal riots, the State government has issued a notice to senior police officer Rahul Sharma for alleged professional misconduct.

The notice, issued by the Home department on Friday, asked Mr. Sharma to explain why he failed to deposit in the city crime branch the two CDs listing the mobile telephone links of some important leaders — including the Chief Minister — and some senior police officers, during the period of the Godhra train carnage and the communal riots which followed in the State, official sources said on Saturday.

The copies of the CDs submitted to both the G.T. Nanavati-Akshay Mehta judicial inquiry commission and the SIT investigating some of the massacres during the riots, are considered to be one of the most important evidences indicating the involvement of top leaders in the riots and the failure, due to negligence, of some senior police officers to control the situation.

Mr. Sharma, the then joint police commissioner of Ahmedabad assisting the crime branch in the investigation of the cases of the Gulberg Society, the Naroda Patiya and other riots in the city, had asked the then two major mobile telephone service providers in Ahmedabad to give him a list of all the mobile calls made between February 24 and March 7, 2002.

The two companies had handed over to him two CDs, along with the list of the calls. Mr. Sharma submitted copies of the two CDs to the Nanavati-Mehta commission and later also to the R.K. Raghavan-headed SIT. During his deposition before the Nanavati commission, Mr. Sharma, presently posted in Rajkot as the Deputy Inspector General, SRP Group, had claimed that he had handed over the original CDs to the then crime branch chief, P.P. Pandey, but, that the State government had told the commission that the CDs were not in the department's custody and raised doubts about the authenticity of the CDs he had submitted.

The Jan Sangharsh Manch, which was representing the riot victims before the Nanavati-Mehta commission, as well as the Mumbai-based Citizens for Justice and Peace, which was assisting the SIT in the fresh investigation, had held the CDs as the most important evidence against the senior government officials and leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

According to the Manch advocate Mukul Sinha, the location of the mobile phones held by the senior BJP, VHP leaders and the police officers, as reflected from the two CDs, showed that some of them had been very close to the sites of the massacres, though they had claimed the contrary, while the senior police officers responsible for the law and order situation were found going away from the scene instead of rushing to the spot to control the situation.

Dr. Sinha's demand, on the basis of the CDs, for the cross-examination of Mr. Modi and six others had not so far been granted by the Nanavati-Mehta commission, forcing the Manch to move the Gujarat High Court to direct the commission to summon these leaders. The case is still pending in the High Court.

The timing of the notice to Mr. Sharma has surprised many. The State government had been aware of the existence of the CDs, as also of the “missing” originals, for the last six-odd years since the copies were submitted to the commission but it had not bothered to make any inquiry into it so far.

Dr. Sinha claimed that the notice to Mr. Sharma at this stage was apparently an arm-twisting tactic by the State government, since Mr. Sharma was an important witness in many of the riot massacre cases being tried by the special courts constituted at the behest of the Supreme Court.

To seek protection

The Manch, Dr. Sinha said, would demand that the SIT give “protection” to Mr. Sharma and also to initiate action against the State government for issuing such a notice, apparently, to threaten him from depositing against the political leaders and others.

He pointed out that under the orders of the Supreme Court, giving protection to witnesses was one of its most important and primary duties and the SIT must honour it by giving protection to Mr. Sharma.