The Ahmedabad Metropolitan Magistrate on Tuesday declared that the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team had not found any evidence for prosecuting Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and top bureaucrats and police officers and recommended that the investigation in the 2002 Gulberg Society massacre case be closed.
Though magistrate M.S. Bhatt did not pronounce the court's decision on the closure report, he ordered the SIT to give a copy of it, within 30 days, to the complainant, Zakia Jafri, widow of the former Congress MP, Ehsan Jafri, who was among the 69 killed in the massacre.
In his order on a batch of petitions seeking a copy of the report, including the one filed by Ms. Jafri, Mr. Bhatt said the investigators had filed a closure report, having found no evidence to justify the filing of an FIR against any of the persons named in Ms. Jafri's complaint in the Supreme Court, accusing Mr. Modi and 62 others of direct or indirect involvement in the communal riots.
“According to the SIT, no offence has been established against any of the persons listed in Ms. Jafri's complaint. Therefore, as per the Supreme Court's order and the principle of natural justice, the complainant has to be given a copy of the report and related documents,” the court said.
No notice was needed to be issued to Ms. Jafri as she had already approached the court for a copy of the report. But the court did not make any reference to the co-petitioners who sought a copy, including the Mumbai-based Citizens for Justice and Peace, which has been helping the riot victims in the legal battle.
That the SIT had given a clean chit to Mr. Modi and others was known in official circles for some time. But it was officially being confirmed by the court for the first time.
The State government spokesman and Health Minister, Jaynarayan Vyas, was guarded in his reaction: the SIT report should put an end to the “canard” being spread against Mr. Modi and others by some NGOs in a “bid to defame Gujarat,” he said.
The SIT's finding is a shot in the arm for Mr. Modi and the BJP, given that the State is going to the polls by year-end, but is subject to confirmation by the trial court and, in case of an appeal, the Supreme Court.
Ms. Jafri said she was pained to learn that the SIT had given Mr. Modi and others a “clean chit.” She vowed to continue the legal battle.
CJP general secretary Teesta Setalvad said the report of the Supreme Court's amicus curiae, Raju Ramachandran, who had found enough grounds for trying Mr. Modi, would be crucial. “We are still not clear whether Mr. Ramachandran's report had formed part of the SIT's report…,” she said.
Tanvir Jafri, son of the deceased Congress MP, said he had apprehensions about the SIT filing a closure report. “The SIT says there is no evidence against Mr. Modi, but not the court. The SIT's decision is of no value if the magistrate decides against it. It may take time, but we are going to fight it out.”