Amicus says Sanjiv Bhatt's claim about attendingFebruary 27, 2002 meeting must be tested in court
In his July 2011 final report submitted to the Supreme Court, Raju Ramachandran, amicus curiae in Zakia Jafri's complaint against Narendra Modi and 61 others, strongly disagreed with a crucial finding of the R.K. Raghavan-led Special Investigation Team: that IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt was not present at a late night meeting of top Gujarat cops held at the Chief Minister's residence in the wake of the February 27, 2002 Godhra carnage. (The SIT has since filed a closure report in the case.)
It has been Mr. Bhatt's claim — made in an affidavit before the apex court and in statements to the SIT and the amicus — that he was present at the meeting where Mr. Modi allegedly said Hindus must be allowed to carry out retaliatory violence against Muslims.
Mr. Ramachandran said there was no clinching material available in the pre-trial stage to disbelieve Mr. Bhatt, whose claim could only be tested in court. “Hence, it cannot be said, at this stage, that Shri Bhatt should be disbelieved and no further proceedings taken against Shri Modi.”
Significantly, the amicus was of the view that in itself Mr. Modi's alleged statement was an offence under the law and he could be prosecuted under various Sections of the IPC: “In my opinion the offences which can be made out against Shri Modi, at this prima facie stage, are offences inter alia under Sections 153 A (1) (a) & (b) (statements promoting enmity between communities), 153B(1) (c) (imputations and assertions prejudicial to national interest), 166 (public servant disobeying a direction of the law with intent to cause injury) and 505 (2) (statements conducing to public mischief).
On Monday, the SIT released the full gamut of reports and documents — presented to the apex court at various stages and subsequently handed over to the trial court — connected with the complaint to Ms. Jafri and the Citizens for Justice and Peace. The papers, which the CJP said ran into 20,000 pages, included the SIT's reports (including the final closure report) as well as the two reports of the amicus filed in January and July 2011 in response to specific directions by the apex court.
In its reports, the SIT had dismissed Mr. Bhatt as an unreliable witness on several grounds: He had been silent for nine years; he had “an axe to grind” against the State; his language on what Mr. Modi said was not exact; he had tried to tutor witnesses; and his claims about attending a meeting called by Mr. Modi for 10. 30 a.m. on February 28, 2002 had been belied by his call records which showed he was in Ahmedabad at that time (Mr. Bhatt told The Hindu that two meetings took place on February 28, 2002, one in the forenoon and the other in the afternoon). The SIT also said Mr. Bhatt's presence at the February 27 meeting had not been corroborated by other participants.
In his final report, the amicus , however, said: “The stage for believing or disbelieving a witness arises after trial i.e. once the entire evidence is placed before the court for its consideration. It would not be correct to conclude, at this stage, that Shri Bhatt should be completely disbelieved unless there is clinching material available to the contrary…”