‘Breakdown in the law and order machinery can not be dismissed off dereliction of duty but a clear case of criminal negligence’

Even though four statutory bodies — Election Commission, Supreme Court, Gujarat High Court and National Human Rights Commission(NHRC) — severely criticised on the complete breakdown of the rule of law in 2002, the Special Investigation Team(SIT), in its report, gave a clean chit to the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for communal riots, Zakia Jafri, widow of Ehsan Jafri contended in a protest petition against the SIT report in a metropolitan magistrate court.

Ms. Jafri’s counsel Mihir Desai said the breakdown in the law and order machinery could not be dismissed off just as dereliction of duty but it was a clear case of criminal negligence.

He argued that the SIT completely ignored contemporaneous investigations conducted by the NHRC headed by the former Chief Justice of India, J.S. Verma, in 2002. Worse, it did not take their detailed assessment after field visits to the State into consideration.

“The Zakia Jafri criminal complaint dated 8.6.2006 seeks to assign criminal culpability to this dereliction of duty that has been heavily and vastly commented upon,” argued Ms. Jafri’s counsel, on the eleventh round of arguments in the case.

He said the question before the court was when four constitutional and statutory bodies, after field visits and detailed examination, said that there was a “comprehensive and systemic failure of the State government, its Home Department, police and bureaucracy to perform fundamental tasks,” the SIT ignored them.

“The crucial question arises now, with much greater rigour and when reams of evidence have been collected to substantiate and fortify these conclusions, whether certain substantive and objective criteria exist for prosecuting responsible persons in office for these criminal lapses. Seen in this overall context, this shows not just a dereliction of duty and criminal negligence but adds up to criminal acts of conspiracy and abetment,” Mr. Desai pointed out.

He argued that this brought out a link and established that when seen all together, these failures amounted to more than dereliction of duty and amounted to criminal conspiracy and abetment to allow Gujarat to burn.