Even if Narendra Modi instructed his officials to allow Hindus to vent their anger against Muslims, the instruction would “not constitute an offence” if it was given within the four walls of a room. This is the opinion of the Special Investigation Team that probed Zakia Jafri's complaint against Mr. Modi and 61 others for their alleged involvement in the 2002 anti-Muslim violence.

One of the charges in Ms. Jafri's complaint was that at a late night meeting of top officials held at his residence on February 27, 2008, the Gujarat Chief Minister had said Hindus must be allowed to carry out retaliatory violence against Muslims in the wake of the Godhra carnage. Eight officers attended the meeting. Another officer, Sanjiv Bhatt, who was then with the State Intelligence, said he was present at the meeting, and had heard Mr. Modi give the anti-Muslim instructions.

The SIT dismissed Mr. Bhatt's claim on two main grounds. Mr. Bhatt was a tainted witness who was involved in criminal cases of a serious nature. Secondly, seven out of eight officers present strongly denied that he had attended the meeting. One officer, Swarnakanta Varma, said she was unable to recollect if she had seen him at the meeting. All eight officers also refuted Mr. Bhatt's claim that Mr. Modi had given illegal instructions to them.

The SIT said the Chief Minister had repeatedly announced — in public, at press briefings and on the floor of the legislative assembly — that he would not spare the culprits of Godhra and “the state government has taken this heinous, inhuman and organised violent act very seriously and is committed to give exemplary punishment to the culprits so that such incident never occur anywhere.”

Further, in an appeal on Doordarshan, Mr. Modi said that “the culprits would be awarded such exemplary punishment so that no one would dare to involve himself in such an incident.” The SIT noted that at least on five occasions between February 27, 2002 and February 28, 2002, “the Chief Minister addressed Media, Assembly and General public and everywhere the genesis and intention was one and the same, i.e, to punish the culprits responsible for the Godhra incident in an exemplary manner so that such incidents did not occur ever again.”

The SIT said in the light of these statements, Mr. Bhatt's claim about any illegal instructions would “appear to be without any basis.” Then it concluded: “Further, even if such allegations are believed for the sake of argument, mere statement of alleged words in the four walls of a room does not constitute an offence.”