J. Venkatesan

Vacates stay on trial; more charge sheets to be filed

Supreme Court asks SIT to submit quarterly reports

Security for witnesses wherever needed

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday ordered the setting up of six fast track courts (FTCs) to try the 2002 Godhra and post-Godhra riot cases in Gujarat and vacated its 2003 order staying the trial.

A Bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat, P. Sathasivam and Aftab Alam requested the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court to set up these FTCs in the districts of Ahmedabad (four cases — Naroda Patiya, Naroda Gam, Gulberg and Godhra train at the Sabarmati jail); Mehsana (two cases); Saabarkantha (British national case) and Anand.

Accepting the report of the Special Investigation Team headed by R.K. Raghavan, former CBI Director, the Bench said: “Due to the efforts of the SIT, persons who were not earlier arrayed as accused have now been arrayed as accused. From the details it appears that in most of the cases a large number of persons have been additionally made accused. Besides this, a large number of witnesses were examined in each case. This goes to show the apparent thoroughness with which the [Supreme Court-appointed] SIT has worked.”

Writing the judgment, Justice Pasayat said: “It is imperative, considering the nature and sensitivity of these cases and the history of the entire litigation, that senior judicial officers be appointed so that these trials can be concluded as soon as possible and in the most satisfactory manner. It would be advisable if the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court selects the judicial officers to be so nominated.”

The Bench directed that supplementary charge sheets be filed in each case as the SIT had found further material and/or had identified other accused against whom charges were now sought to be brought. The trials should be held on a day-to-day basis keeping in view the fact that they were already delayed by seven years. “The need for early completion of sensitive cases, more particularly in cases involving communal disturbances, cannot be overstated.”

The Bench said public prosecutors should be appointed in consultation with the SIT chairman. He should keep track of the progress of the trials to ensure that “they are proceeding smoothly and shall submit quarterly reports to this court.”

The Bench said: “The stay on the conduct of the trials is vacated to enable the trials to continue. Wherever necessary the SIT can request the public prosecutor to seek cancellation of the bails already granted.” To instil confidence in the minds of the victims and their relatives and to ensure that witnesses deposed freely and fearlessly before the court, steps should be taken to provide security to the witnesses wherever considered necessary, the Bench said.

The Bench said:

“The SIT shall be the nodal agency to decide as to which witnesses require protection and the kind of witness protection that is to be made available to such witness. The SIT would continue to function and carry out any investigations that are yet to be completed or any further investigation that may arise in the course of the trials.

“It was the apprehension of some of the counsel that unruly situations may be created in court to terrorise witnesses. It needs no indication that the court shall have to deal with such situations sternly and pass necessary orders. The SIT shall also look into this area. Periodic three monthly reports shall be submitted by the SIT to this court in sealed covers.”

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