‘We acted without fear or favour thanks to rocklike support from apex court’
“I am happy SIT’s stand has been vindicated… If we acted without fear or favour it was because of the rocklike support we got from the apex court, without which we would have crumbled against forces which were determined to see that we did not succeed,” said R.K. Raghavan, head of the Special Investigation Team appointed by the Supreme Court to go into the graver cases of the 2002 communal violence in Gujarat.
The former CBI Director was reacting to an Ahmedabad trial court verdict, which on Thursday rejected a protest petition filed by Zakia Jafri, wife of the slain former Congress MP Ahsan Jafri, challenging the SIT’s clean chit to Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the riots.
The SIT had maintained that it could not order prosecution of Mr. Modi and 61 others in the Gulberg Society case as there was no “prosecutable evidence” for filing a charge sheet.
The SIT justified the ‘closure report’ filed before the Ahmedabad Magistrate Court, stating it could not act on surmises, presumptions and probabilities. It needed concrete material, fully supported by evidence and backed by witnesses.
After analysing various statements, official records, logbooks, telephonic records and documents, itconcluded that there was no “prosecutable evidence” available against Mr. Modi of his having aided and abetted in the communal riots.
In his testimony before the SIT, senior IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt said he was present at the February 27, 2002 meeting at the Chief Minister’s residence, where, he alleged, Mr. Modi instructed top police officials to allow Hindus to give “vent to their anger” against Muslims. Mr. Modi was also responsible for making inflammatory speeches, according to Ms. Jafri, who was supported by Teesta Setalvad of Citizens for Justice and Peace, a non-governmental organisation.
But the SIT recommended closing the case against Mr. Modi on the ground that Mr. Bhatt was a controversial and unreliable witness. It said all eight senior officials who were present at the February 27, 2002 meeting were examined by the SIT and none of them corroborated Mr. Bhatt’s claim that he was there.
The SIT also concluded that there was no material on record to show interference by the two Ministers who were present in the Police Control Room when Muslims were being attacked across Ahmedabad.
The SIT said: “It could not act on preponderance of probabilities. In spite of the fact that ghastly and violent attacks had taken place on Muslims at Gulberg Society and elsewhere, the reaction of the government was not the type that would have been expected by anyone. The Chief Minister had tried to water down the seriousness of the situation at Gulberg Society, Naroda Patiya and other places by saying that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. However, this utterance by itself is not sufficient to make out a case against Mr. Modi.”
On the allegation of undue delay in requisition and deployment of the Army though anti-minority violence had broken out on the afternoon of February 27, 2002 itself in Vadodara and Ahmedabad cities, the SIT report said the deployment commenced from 11 a.m. on March 1, 2002 and the Army took up positions after having been flown in from the forward areas within 21 hours of the State government requisition.” The allegation was, therefore, not established.