Nanavati-Akshay Mehta commission’s arguments to reject plea do not hold water: Mukul Sinha
Manch’s arguments fall short of proving any direct or indirect involvement of Modi: commission
Petitioner’s reliance on ex-DGP Shreekumar’s statement not justified
AHMEDABAD: Mukul Sinha, counsel for the Jan Sangharsh Manch, on Saturday said the arguments of the G.T. Nanavati-Akshay Mehta judicial commission, probing the Godhra train carnage and subsequent Gujarat communal riots in 2002, of lack of evidence for summoning Chief Minister Narendra Modi and others did not hold water. For, the stage had not yet reached for submitting evidence, but at least cross-examining them was necessary to “arrive at the truth.”
Counsel said the application for summoning them was made only after the State government in July 2004 expanded the terms of reference of the commission to include the offices of Chief Minister, his Council of Ministers and senior bureaucrats and police officers to inquire into their “roles” in the riots.
If the collective opinion of the State government was that the role and conduct of these persons, including the Chief Minister, required to be looked into by a judicial inquiry commission, “there is no justification for the commission to refuse to do so,” Dr. Sinha said.
On the Manch’s allegation that prima facie Mr. Modi was in the “knowledge” of the riots, the commission said none of the arguments justified his summoning “at this stage.” These fell short of proving any direct or indirect involvement of the Chief Minister or dereliction of duty on his part or that of the State police and administration, of which he was the head.
The commission, however, has not rejected the authenticity of two compact discs (CDs) containing the list of mobile phone numbers. Though the government pleader, questioning their genuineness and authenticity, wanted the data contained in the CDs “ignored completely,” the commission did “not accept the suggestion in toto.” Though it did not “justify issuing summons to the persons,” the data, “if found not manipulated, is likely to help this commission in finding out the truth about involvement of these persons in the incidents of violence against the minority community.”
Pointing out that the government had already furnished relevant information through the affidavits of its officers, the commission said: “Only those persons against whom there is some material to show their involvement in the post-Godhra incidents should be summoned and that too at an appropriate stage.”
The commission did not find any “alleged haste [in] and illegal manner” of conducting post-mortem on the bodies those burnt aboard S-6 coach of the Sabarmati Express or that the bodies were handed over to VHP leader Jaydeep Patel for being brought to Ahmedabad to “instigate communal sentiments” under the “instructions of Mr. Modi,” as alleged by the Manch. It disagreed that Mr. Modi paid a “secret visit” to Godhra soon after the train carnage, or that he and his political supporters “disturbed” any material evidence in the coach, or that the Chief Minister deliberately changed inquiry officers probing the train carnage to “sabotage” investigation, and transferred the police officers who did not allow the riots to spread in their areas.
Quoting affidavits filed by the then top police and administrative officers, the commission said the Manch’s reliance on the statement by the former Director-General of Police, R.B. Shreekumar, that Mr. Modi had directed the police to “allow Hindus to vent their anger” was not justified as none other officials present at the reported meeting corroborated such a statement.
The commission said the Manch was neither able to prove that the Chief Minister did not allow sanctions on some of the media for “incense reporting” of the events to flare up communal passion, nor could it find fault with Mr. Modi’s statement about “pre-planned attack of terrorists” on the train. The Manch was also not able to prove that Mr. Modi “shielded” his partymen allegedly involved in the riots.
“Change in stand”
On the contrary, the commission order said, the Manch had clearly changed its stand that the reason for the request for summoning these leaders was “not to prove [that they were] prima facie guilty of any misconduct or responsible for any criminal acts or omission.” These submissions, it said, “have been advanced for the first time. It is contrary to what the applicant has stated earlier in its applications as well as written submissions filed in support of these applications as also the documents produced by it,” the commission said.
The order was issued nearly two months after the hearing on the application for summoning them came up before the commission.