No evidence to charge them with alleged dereliction of duty, says SIT

The Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the Gulberg Society massacre case during the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat has given a clean chit to the then four top police officers and said it had no evidence to charge them with alleged dereliction of duty and destroying evidence.

Opposing the plea of some of the victims and witnesses of the Gulberg Society massacre to arraign the then Ahmedabad Police Commissioner, P. C. Pande, Joint Police Commissioner M. K. Tandon, Deputy Police Commissioner, P.B. Gondia, and Assistant Police Commissioner in the office of the Ahmedabad city crime branch S. S. Chudasma at the special fast track court, the SIT said it had no evidence against the four top police officers to suggest they had played any role in the Gulberg massacre.

Special court judge B.J. Dhandha reserved his orders on the application to arraign the four police officers till May 31 when he would also give his decision on the interim bail application of the eight accused in the case.

The victims and witnesses in the case filed the application on May 13, seeking prosecution of Mr. Pande, Mr. Tandon, Mr. Gondia and Mr. Chudasma, who was also the first investigation officer in the case, for dereliction of duty and destruction of evidences. The SIT, which has so far maintained that the investigation was under progress and it would submit its report to the Supreme Court, told the fast track court that there was no evidence for dereliction of duty on the part of these officials.

Special Public Prosecutor R.C. Kodekar submitted before the designated court that the officials had no role to play in the offence and sought dismissal of the application which he felt was submitted with the intention of further delaying the proceedings. The SIT, however, said that the probe with regard to Mr. Tandon was still on and a report had already been submitted before the Supreme Court.

Counsel for the petitioners S.M. Vora, relying on Section 6 of the Indian Evidence Act, argued that though the top police officers were not directly involved in the incident, there was “deliberate negligence” on the part of Mr. Pande, Mr. Tandon and Mr. Gondia, and they should be charged with dereliction of duty. He said that despite constant reminders from the victims as well as from other people, these top officers not only failed to rush adequate force to quell the riots, they also chose not to visit the spot till the violence was over in the late evening on February 28, 2002. Mr. Chudasma, the victims claimed, played an important role in destroying evidences when he was the investigating officer.

Mr. Vora also told the court that further probe was ordered only on the basis of the petitioners' application. “Without their application, the SIT would not have done anything… it does not do anything on its own,” he said, maintaining that the SIT's role “is suspicious since it has been protecting cops from the beginning.”

The Gulberg Society massacre had taken a toll of 69 people, including the former Congress MP, Ehsan Jafri. Sixty-six accused are being tried in the case.