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‘Larger conspiracy’ to malign State of Gujarat, SG tells SC

A view of Supreme Court in New Delhi. File
Legal Correspondent NEW DELHI 02 December 2021 17:40 IST
Updated: 02 December 2021 17:40 IST

He was countering appeal filed by Zakia Jafri and Teesta Setalvad against closure of plea to probe a “larger conspiracy” involving highest echelons of Gujarat in 2002 when Modi was CM

Solicitor General of India (SG) Tushar Mehta in the Supreme Court on Thursday lashed out at allegations of a “larger conspiracy” behind the 2002 post-Godhra riots.

“There was a larger conspiracy, and it was against the entire State of Gujarat,” he opened his submissions before a Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar.

Also Read: SIT defends investigation into 2002 Godhra riots cases

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The SG, representing Gujarat, was countering an appeal filed by petitioners Zakia Jafri and activist Teesta Setalvad against the closure of the plea to investigate a “larger conspiracy” involving the highest echelons of Gujarat in 2002 when Narendra Modi was Chief Minister.

Mr. Mehta said the miseries of Ms. Jafri, who lost her loved ones in the riots, was “exploited”. He focused his initial submissions on “petitioner number two” in the case - Ms. Setalvad. Witnesses were tutored and evidence was fabricated. The State had always been open to an investigation, he noted.

“When the Supreme Court said ‘we will constitute a SIT [Special Investigation Team]’, we agreed, saying we have nothing to hide. When the court said ‘we will decide the members of the SIT’, we said ‘we have nothing to hide’. When the court said ‘we will ask the SIT to file its reports to us’, we said ‘we have nothing to hide’,” he submitted. “The allegation of a larger conspiracy is not just a castle in the air, it is bubbles in the air.”

‘Proceedings orchestrated’

Mr. Mehta stated, the “larger conspiracy against the State, we do not know for what reason there was this conspiracy, went on for decades to malign the State. Proceedings in the cases were orchestrated". He observed that “money for the victims were misused for personal pleasure”.

Also Read: Got convictions in all Godhra cases: SIT

Earlier in the day, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, for the SIT, remarked that the allegation of larger conspiracy was made to “keep the courts boiling”. The complaint was made four and a half years after the 2002 riots.

Another round of investigation into the riots for a “larger conspiracy” after 20 years would hit the hurdle of “double jeopardy” for the accused who had either been acquitted of charges or served their prison sentence.

Mr. Rohatgi argued, “The whole system of criminal justice would go for a six”. He submitted that the allegations of Ms. Jafri had been investigated by the SIT, looked into by the lower courts and the Nanavati Commission “threadbare”.

The magistrate had accepted the closure report of the SIT after taking cognisance. If the apex court now starts to entertain them again, the impact would affect other riots cases.

‘Everything will become topsy-turvy’

“Everything will go back 20 years... Everything will become topsy-turvy if investigation is restarted,” Mr. Rohatgi submitted.

The case of larger conspiracy was examined by the SIT separately as a “10th case” separate from the other nine riots cases entrusted to it by the Supreme Court. “And because of the trust the Supreme Court places in the SIT, we did more than ‘look into’ it... Once the magistrate took cognisance of the complaint and accepted the closure report, you cannot force the magistrate to act on the complaint,” Mr. Rohatgi concluded his submissions.

The SIT filed a closure report in February 2012. It gave a clean chit to current Prime Minister Modi 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, who had moved the apex court.

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