The Supreme Court has lifted the stay on pronouncement of verdicts in eight of the nine Godhra and post-Godhra riot cases of 2002, taking into consideration the fact that trials are nearing completion and that trial is over in the Godhra case.
A Bench of Justices D.K. Jain, P. Sathasivam and Aftab Alam on Tuesday said the trial courts could proceed with the pronouncement of the final judgment, except in the Gulberg Society case relating to the killing of the former Congress MP, Ehsan Jaffrey, in Meghani Nagar in Ahmedabad.
The eight cases comprise two in Ode and one each in Sardarpura, British National Deepdra Darwasam, Naroda Gaon, Naroda Patya, Tarsali and Godhra.
The Bench issued notice to the Gujarat government on a petition that sought the transfer of the Gulberg Society case. The petition said judge B.U. Joshi was biased, favoured the accused and humiliated witnesses.
The Bench, however, rejected the plea to reconstitute the Special Investigation Team (SIT). The petition alleged that there were certain lapses in the investigations by the SIT. Before rejecting the plea, the Bench heard amicus curiae Harish Salve.
It also took into consideration the report of A.K. Malhotra, a former DIG of the CBI, appointed to look into the allegations, and also submissions by SIT Chairman Raghavan that the utmost objectivity was ensured in the investigation.
Justice Jain told counsel Kamini Jaiswal, “We are satisfied with Mr. Malhotra's report. It is not possible at this stage to reconstitute the SIT. Many of the accused are still in jail. It will delay the whole process. Let us have faith in the SIT.”
Mr. Raghavan said only one Gujarat police officer, Himanshu Shukla, was associated in the investigation of the complaint of Ehsan Jaffrey's wife Zakia Jaffrey and three persons had been interrogated so far. Legal opinion was sought on the information furnished by them and further time was needed to submit the final report.
Earlier, counsel Prashant Bhushan, who was appointed amicus curiae to assist the court in respect of Ms. Zakia Jaffrey's complaint, recused himself from the case as the State government alleged that he was biased and had strong views against Chief Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP government.
Senior counsel Ram Jethmalani, appearing for one of the accused in the complaint, wanted the April 27, 2009 Supreme Court order, which asked the SIT to look into the complaint, recalled.
The order should not have been passed, he said. He urged the court to give him an opportunity to make his submissions.
Justice Jain said the court would hear him after the SIT gave the final report on the complaint. The Bench directed that the matter be listed for December 2.