The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought the comments of R.K. Raghavan, head of the Special Investigation Team investigating the Godhra and post-Godhra communal riot cases in Gujarat, on an application alleging lapses in the probe and seeking reconstitution of the SIT. A Bench of Justices D.K. Jain, P. Sathasivam and Aftab Alam granted him three weeks to file his response.

Devendra Bhai Pathak and other applicants said there were serious concerns at the manner in which trial in seven cases was proceeding, despite SIT presence and supervision. They alleged that the SIT refused to look into key aspects of further investigation, especially dealing with mala fide intentions and complicity of state actors. Among the issues were: “Police witnesses, directly working with the SIT, turning hostile to the shock of the trial court which made observations about their conduct after they were declared hostile; [other] witnesses turning hostile, the SIT not ensuring them adequate safety.”The applicants said several people, including Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Secretary Chaturvedi, who were allegedly part of the conspiracy to create communal disturbances, were not questioned by the SIT. This amounted to a serious lapse.

Counsel Kamini Jaiswal alleged that the SIT was not conducting the investigation properly and said it should be reconstituted. For, three of its members — police officers Geeta Johri, Shivanand Jha and Ashish Bhatia — who had been indicted, could not continue. When she pressed for a CBI probe, Justice Jain said: “Don’t raise that plea now. That is a closed chapter. The investigation has already progressed and the trial commenced. It will be like putting the back the clock.”

Solicitor-General Gopal Subramaniam, appearing for the Centre, cited instances of the SIT not producing evidence before the trial court and said this affected its credibility. When amicus curiae Harish Salve suggested that the SIT could take the assistance of Ms. Johri for past investigation, Justice Alam said, “Our [Supreme Court] observations against her in the Sohrabuddin case cannot be brushed aside.” Mr. Salve said he would have no problem if Ms. Johri was removed from the SIT. On the allegation that the SIT chief was not available in Gujarat and his absence hampered the investigations and trial, Mr. Salve said Mr. Raghavan had informed him that he was appointed only to oversee the investigation and hence his constant presence in the State was not required. The Bench listed the case for further hearing on March 15.