“No direction for separate FIR on Zakia Jafri’s complaint”

Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. File

Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. File

The Supreme Court on Wednesday said it had not directed the registration of a separate FIR in 2011 on a complaint by Zakia Jafri, widow of slain Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, about a “larger conspiracy” behind the post-Godhra riots.

A Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar said the Supreme Court, in its September 12, 2011 order, had merely directed its Special Investigation Team (SIT) to “look into” the material brought forth by Ms. Jafri and file a final report before the magistrate court concerned in Gujarat.

The Bench said the September 2011 order may have been restricted to the Gulberg Society case, which involved the killing of Ms. Jafri’s husband by a mob, and not any “larger conspiracy” allegedly tracing its roots to the highest echelons of power in Gujarat led by Chief Minister Narendra Modi in 2002.

The court, supported by senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi appearing for the SIT, said the “impression” that the 2011 order was confined to the Gulberg Society case and not a larger conspiracy was reinforced by the fact that it had directed the final report to be filed in the same magistrate court that had taken cognisance of the Gulberg case.

Clean chit

Following the apex court order in 2011, the SIT had gone on to file a closure report in February 2012. It had given a clean chit to Mr. Modi, current Prime Minister, and 63 others, including senior government officials, saying there was “no prosecutable evidence” against them. A ‘protest petition’ filed by Ms. Jafri against the clean chit was dismissed by the Magistrate. The Gujarat High Court too, in October 2017, refused to entertain Ms. Jafri.

“There was no direction from this court [in 2011] to file a separate case on the complaint [of Ms. Jafri alleging larger conspiracy]... That is the impression we get. It just said look into the complaint and file a report,” Justice Khanwilkar told senior advocate Kapil Sibal, for Ms. Jafri.

Mr. Sibal said though the complaint was never registered as an FIR, it was “treated” as one. Besides, there were no proceedings going on in the Magistrate court at the time as the Gulberg case trial was going on in a Sessions Court.

The senior lawyer further contended that the SIT itself had not confined its probe to the Gulberg Society case. “The SIT did not treat the complaint as concerning Gulberg case alone… The crux of the matter is that SIT looked into every concern raised in the complaint,” Mr. Sibal argued.

Moreover, the 2011 order had asked the SIT to also consider a report submitted by the apex court’s amicus curiae, senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, which had covered the riots in general, he said.

Sibal’s charge

Challenging the SIT’s closure report, Mr. Sibal said the investigative body merely accepted the statements given by the “accused”. The SIT did not even “look at” a sting operation which was treated as evidence in another (Naroda Patiya) case. “They did not record statements of witnesses. No phones were seized from the accused. No call record details were analysed. They never arrested anybody, never checked why documents were destroyed and why the police stood by doing nothing… They just accepted the statements of the accused… There should be an investigation,” Mr. Sibal said.

He referred to the 1984 riots in Delhi in which “the investigation on the ground is still happening”. “The SIT has to explain why they did not do a proper investigation,” Mr. Sibal argued.

He urged the court to intervene against the SIT’s closure report. “Communal violence is like lava erupting from a volcano, and it is an institutionalised problem. Wherever lava touches, it scars and becomes fertile ground for future revenge…” Mr. Sibal told the court.

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Printable version | Oct 5, 2022 10:48:33 pm |