Manas Dasgupta

AHMEDABAD: Principal Sessions Judge G.B. Shah on Monday rejected an application by Gulberg Society witnesses and victims to suspend the trial till they approach the Gujarat High Court for a change of Special Court judge B.U. Joshi, hearing the massacre case.

The application was filed after the sessions court here dismissed a transfer petition by them last week that sought to change Mr. Joshi, alleging he was “biased” towards the accused.

While dismissing the transfer petition on grounds of jurisdictional limitations, Mr. Shah advised the aggrieved petitioners to approach the High Court, which alone has the jurisdiction to transfer the case to another court or take steps to redress their grievances.

“We propose to approach the High Court in the next few days,” S.M. Vora, advocate for the petitioners, said.

The petition was filed on January 25. It came up for hearing in Mr. Shah’s court on Wednesday and the dismissal order was issued on Thursday. According to Mr. Vora, the court did not go into the merit of the case, but dismissed it prima facie on jurisdictional limitations, pointing out that the sessions court had no powers to change or transfer a judge of the special court appointed under instructions of the High Court which, in turn, was ordered to take necessary steps by the Supreme Court.

The High Court formed nine special courts last year for the trial of gruesome incidents of massacre during the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat and appointed Mr. Joshi to hear the Gulberg Society massacre.

Sixty-nine people, including the former Congress member of the Lok Sabha, Ehsan Jafri, were killed in the massacre.