J. Venkatesan

Gujarat has no objection to further probe; a fair approach, says Bench

Religious fanatics worse than terrorists: Bench

In these cases there is an element of communal disharmony

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Gujarat government to set up a special investigation team (SIT) for a further probe into 14 Godhra and post-Godhra communal riots cases in 2002.

The investigation will also cover the case of torching of the Sabarmati express train on February 27, 2002.

“We feel that considering the sensitive nature of the cases involved, appointment of a SIT is warranted,” said a Bench comprising Justices Arijit Pasayat, P. Sathasivam and Aftab Alam. It directed the Gujarat government to notify the constitution of the SIT in 10 days.

The Bench said: “Communal harmony is the hallmark of democracy. No religion teaches hatred. If in the name of religion, people are liquidated it is essentially a slur and blot on society governed by the Constitution of India which in its Preamble refers to secularism.”

After hearing amicus curiae Harish Salve and senior counsel for Gujarat Mukul Rohatgi, it said: “Religious fanatics really do not belong to any religion. They are worse than terrorists. These are cases where there is an element of communal disharmony which is not to be countenanced.” The object of the criminal justice system was that a person who was found guilty of an offence should be punished.

Raghavan SIT chief

The former CBI Director R.K. Raghavan would be the Chairman of the five-member SIT. The other members are a retired police officer of Uttar Pradesh C. V. Satpathy and three senior IPS officers from Gujarat, Geeta Johri (convener), Shivanand Jha and Ashish Bhatia.

The SIT would further investigate the incidents that occurred in Godhra, Sardarpura, Gulberg Society, Ode, Naroda Gaon, Naroda Patiya, Deepla Darwaza and the one involving British nationals. The Bench asked the SIT to complete the probe and submit its report to the court in three months.

The Bench said counsel for Gujarat had suggested that the State had no objection to further investigation so that people’s faith in its transparent action would be strengthened. Counsel had said the State was not shielding any guilty persons and it wanted them punished.

The Bench said, “This seems to be a fair approach on the part of the State.”

The SIT would be free to work out modalities and norms for purposes of enquiry or investigation. “If any person wants to be examined by the SIT or wants to give his/her version of the alleged incidents, the SIT shall record the reasons.”

The SIT need not confine itself to complaints and it could conduct any enquiry necessary for the investigation. The Bench directed that the matter be listed for the last week of August for further directions.

The court had stayed the trial in these cases on petitions filed by the National Human Rights Commission and the Citizens for Justice and Peace, which sought a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation and transfer of the cases outside Gujarat.

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