Citing lack of intent, SIT lets Modi off riots hook

But claim of absence of evidence at odds with amicus report

February 10, 2012 01:21 am | Updated December 04, 2021 11:07 pm IST - New Delhi:

The Special Investigation Team probing Zakia Jafri's complaint has freed Chief Minister Narendra Modi of all charges in the 2002 Gujarat pogrom against Muslims. In a “summary closure report” — filed before the magistrate's court in Ahmedabad on Wednesday — the R.K. Raghavan-led SIT said there was no “prosecutable evidence” against Mr. Modi, who was among 62 persons named in an omnibus complaint filed by Ms. Jafri and the Citizens for Justice and Peace.

The “closure report” runs counter to the opinion of Raju Ramachandran who was appointed amicus curiae by the Supreme Court. Mr. Ramachandran was of the view that there was ground for prosecuting Mr. Modi under various sections of the IPC.

Ms. Jafri's husband and former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri was among 69 persons brutally murdered in Gulberg Society by saffron mobs that attacked and killed at least 1,200 Muslim men and women across the State. Ms. Jafri and the CJP approached the Supreme Court after being turned away by the police establishment in Gujarat. In April 2009, the apex court appointed the Raghavan-led team to look into the complaint and, in an extraordinary subsequent move, asked Mr. Ramachandran to take an independent view of the SIT's report. In its September 12, 2011 judgment, the Court said it would be open for the SIT to append Mr. Ramachandran's findings to its report. However, The Hindu has learnt that the SIT may have merely “incorporated” Mr. Ramachandran's findings in its report and not attached the amicus' view in its entirety.

According to well placed sources, the SIT was of the opinion that there was no material evidence to indicate that Mr. Modi had “criminal intentions” to orchestrate the riots. Further, it felt mere inaction or negligence on the part of Mr. Modi could not form grounds for his prosecution. The SIT felt that “criminal intention” was vital to proceed further against the Chief Minister.

The SIT probed as many as 32 allegations of omission and commission by the Modi government and its functionaries, including the Chief Minister. As of now Mr. Modi and 61 others are not cited as accused in the case.

In its order last September, the Supreme Court said: “we deem it necessary to emphasise that if for any stated reason the SIT opines ... that there is no sufficient evidence or reasonable grounds for proceeding against any person named in the complaint ... [then] before taking a final decision on such ‘closure' report, the [trial] Court shall issue notice to the complainant and make available to her copies of the statements of the witnesses, other related documents and the investigation report strictly in accordance with law.”

Sanjiv Rajendra Bhatt, a senior Gujarat Police officer whose testimony was recorded by the SIT in Ms. Jafri's complaint, said in his affidavit filed in the Supreme Court that he attended a meeting convened by Mr. Modi on February 27, 2002 — after the Godhra train burning incident — and claimed that the effect of the instructions given by Mr. Modi was widely manifested in the communal riots and orchestrated violence during the State-sponsored bandh on February 28, 2002.

However, the SIT found no substantial corroborative evidence to back Mr. Bhatt's claim, holding that the claim was an afterthought on the part of Mr. Bhatt and that, as a junior level officer in 2002, there was no reason for him to be present at the meeting on that day.

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