The Gujarat High Court on Thursday rejected a petition filed by a few victims and witnesses of the Gulberg Society communal riots massacre, for transferring the trial from the designated court of B.U. Joshi on the grounds of “bias” of the judge against them.
A Division Bench comprising Justices Jayant Patel and Abhilasha Kumari rejected the petition, stating that “alleged apprehension of bias for seeking transfer cannot be termed as ‘a reasonable apprehension' to attract the power of transfer of the cases.”
Petitioners Imtiyazkhan Pathan and others had alleged that Mr. Joshi was “biased and adopted an unsympathetic behaviour” towards the witnesses, and feared “injustice” from his court.
Though the Bench rejected the plea, it directed the designated judge to be “sober” to the parties in the case.
“We hope that the learned session's judge will have a sober approach to the witnesses in the conduct of the trial. While exercising judicial powers, he would also, as far as possible, avoid making any uncalled for comments or remarks, unless he finds that the same are directly relevant for exercising his judicial functions,” the court observed.
Mr. Joshi was selected by the High Court to conduct the trial of the Gulberg society massacre, an incident where 69 people including the former Congress member in the Lok Sabha, Ehsan Jafri, were killed during the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat. The petitioners had moved the High Court after the Ahmedabad sessions court turned the plea down on grounds of jurisdiction.
The Division Bench, however, made it clear that the Chief Justice of the High Court or the Supreme Court could still make changes in the designated court. “We find it proper to observe and clarify that the present order shall not operate as a bar to the Honourable Chief Justice in exercising the power on administrative side for transfer of the case or other cases if any contingency so arises, independently or if it is so observed and directed by the apex court.”
Meanwhile, the Gujarat government on Thursday submitted in the High Court a list of its top police officers for possible induction in the Special Investigation Team to conduct inquiry into the alleged fake encounter case of Ishrat Jahan.
The Court had asked for the list from both the State and the Central governments in the event it thought it necessary to change the composition of the present SIT or induct some new faces to continue the probe. The order for submitting the list was issued on a petition filed by Ishrat's mother Shamima Kausar and Gopinath Pillai, the father of Pranesh Pillai alias Javed Sheikh.
Ishrat, Javed and two Pakistani nationals were killed in June 2004.