Thursday, May 23, 2002
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By Manas Dasgupta
Muslim refugees take shelter in a Shiva temple in Juhapura area of Ahmedabad on Wednesday. The temple, in a cinema hall complex, was converted into a relief camp.
Announcing the appointment of Justice G. T. Nanavati, a retired judge of the Supreme Court, the State Government said the commission had been ``reconstituted'' to remove any doubts about the Government's ``intentions'' behind the inquiry into the gory incidents.
The State Government had constituted the one-man judicial inquiry commission on March 6 with Justice K. G. Shah, a retired judge of the Gujarat high Court.
But the appointment failed to satisfy the minorities as well as the Opposition political parties who doubted the impartiality of the commission, and wanted the probe to be conducted by the apex court and not the High Court.
Some of the legal experts and the minorities said that Mr. Justice Shah had delivered several ``controversial'' judgements and the one regarding the communal riots of 1985, which was later set aside by the Supreme Court, showed his ``bias'' against the minorities. As a judge of the High court, he had issued death sentence against five persons for allegedly burning alive eight persons during the 1985 riots, but it was set aside by a three-member Bench of the Supreme Court for lack of evidence.
The State Government said the appointment of the second person was necessitated by the ``unsavoury controversy'' created over Mr. Justice Shah's appointment to ``vitiate the atmosphere.'' However, now that the situation was returning to normality, the Government decided to incorporate Mr. Justice Nanavati to maintain the ``high standard and dignity of the judicial inquiry commissions'' and remove any apprehension about the Government's intentions behind the inquiry. The Government order, however, did not specify who among the two would be heading the commission.
A former Chief Justice of the Karnataka and Orissa High Courts before he was drafted in the Supreme Court, Mr. Justice Nanavati was a judge of the Gujarat High Court and an assistant government pleader in the beginning of his legal career. His appointment, however, has failed to satisfy the critics, who termed it an ``eye-wash''.
The critics said that while those opposing the Shah Commission were demanding appointment of a sitting Supreme Court judge and particularly someone from outside Gujarat to ensure total impartiality, the Government had gone only half-way, appointing a retired judge and that too a Gujarati.
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