Interview with R.K. Raghavan, head of SIT probing the 2002 Gujarat riots.

The former CBI Director, R.K. Raghavan, who heads the Special Investigation Team probing the 2002 Gujarat riots, says he has an open mind on incorporating the report of the amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran while submitting the SIT's final report to the Trial Court. In an interview with J. Venkatesan, Mr. Raghavan says the Supreme Court was right to subject his report to independent scrutiny.

Will you incorporate the amicus curiae report or merely forward it to the trial court? The Supreme Court does not appear to have given a positive direction to the SIT on this aspect.

A strict construction of the order requires only the mechanical act of forwarding the amicus's report along with mine. Anyhow, I have an open mind.

The main allegation against the SIT was that it has given clean chit to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Is this perception correct?

“Clean chit” is a vague expression that I don't like. The SIT has only responded to questions that came its way during the enquiry into Ms Zakia Jafri's petition [on the Gujarat riots]. This response was on the basis of the evidence collected and the rules of evidence that apply in such matters.

Even the Supreme Court said the SIT's findings and inference did not match. It is only for this reason that the amicus curiae was asked to give his comments on your report.

I was happy that our report was subjected to a critical scrutiny by an eminent lawyer. This was a correct move on the part of the apex court so that whatever conclusion is arrived at finally by the Trial Court carries credibility. While giving its verdict, the latter would have had the benefit of the findings of two sources who worked independent of each other. The order of the Supreme Court in asking [amicus curiae] Raju Ramachandran to examine the evidence collected by us was in no way an index of its dissatisfaction with the SIT.

As of now, Mr. Modi and 61 others are not cited as accused in the case. Is the formal registration of an FIR required, as Ms. Jafri's original petition had sought, and if so, can the trial court order registration of FIR based on the SIT report?

We are now far beyond the stage of an FIR. The Trial Court will now decide whether there is material enough in the SIT's Final Report and in Raju Ramachandran's report that would necessitate further investigation by the SIT or the framing of charges by the court itself against any other accused, other than those against whom charges have already been framed. Please remember that the trial has reached a very advanced stage.

Do you think the amicus curiae was carried away by police officer Sanjeev Bhat's allegations against the SIT?

It will be unfair to accuse the amicus of having been carried away by one particular witness.

He spoke to several witnesses and I am sure his report was the product of his comprehension, neutrality and integrity.

There is an allegation from Mr. Bhat that the SIT passed on its reports to the Gujarat government. He also alleged that Tushar Mehta, Additional Advocate-General of Gujarat, had advised some of the accused based on the SIT report. Is this correct? Were the SIT reports leaked?

This was a grossly unfair and motivated allegation. Anyhow, this matter is before the apex court. I should not comment further on this.

At the end of the day, what are your feelings about the SIT assignment which came seven years after you laid down office as CBI chief?

This has been tough beyond words. I came with an informal assurance from Justice Pasayat that I could finish this and go home within three months. It is now into its fourth year, with the light at the end of the tunnel not seen. This has been physically exhausting, and my family don't like it a wee bit.

There has also been advice from friends that I should call it a day, because I was in a highly politicised and, therefore, controversial environment where no holds were barred. They also perceived a threat to my physical safety. There were, of course, several moments when I did want to quit. (Actually, my detractors set afloat the rumour a few months ago that I had resigned! I refused to oblige them!) But after serious reflection, I thought I should not be a quitter and that I should hold on gallantly. I have been subjected to barbs touching my professionalism, neutrality and integrity. These have saddened me, but have not affected the steel in me.

The personal attacks on me and the SIT have not demoralised us because of the solid support of the three-member bench [Justices Jain, Sathasivam and Aftab Alam]. But for them I would have just crumbled. The two amicus curiae, Harish Salve and Raju Ramachandran, have also been of great help.

More than anything else, the officers working for me have simply been great. They are not only hard working but have been acutely conscious of the dangers of partisanship. If I am staying on, it is because of the conviction that in no way should I even remotely let down victims.

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