Supreme Court begins hearing Zakia Jafri plea

She challenges SIT clean chit to then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi in 2002 post-Godhra riots.

October 26, 2021 08:09 pm | Updated 08:09 pm IST - NEW DELHI

File photo of Zakia Jafri.

File photo of Zakia Jafri.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday began hearing a petition filed by Zakia Jafri , widow of slain Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, challenging the Special Investigation Team’s clean chit to then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the 2002 post-Godhra riots.

Appearing before a Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, for Ms. Jafri, said her case concerned “larger conspiracy” involving “bureaucratic inaction, police complacency and conspired, directed unleashing of violence”.

“This Republic is too great to look the other way,” Mr. Sibal urged the court.

On February 8, 2012, the SIT had filed a closure report giving clean chit to Mr. Modi , now the Prime Minister, and 63 others, including senior officials, saying there was “no prosecutable evidence” against them.

Also read: Who is Zakia Jafri, and why is she challenging a clean chit given to Narendra Modi?

The magistrate had refused to entertain the protest petition filed by Ms. Jafri against the closure report. Ms. Jafri said the magistrate did not apply his mind.

Mr. Sibal said the magistrate was duty-bound to take cognisance of the case which was amply buttressed by official intelligence gathered about hate speeches made to spur communal emotions, instances of spread of false information, police wireless messages, statements by senior police officers, etc, in Gujarat.

“But the magistrate just said he did not have the power,” Mr. Sibal submitted.

On October 5, 2017, the Gujarat High Court had rejected Ms. Jafri’s appeal against the SIT closure report and the magistrate order.

“People were massacred due to police inaction. I am giving you official evidence. Who will be answerable for this? The future generations?” Mr. Sibal asked.

Also read: Gujarat riots: SC to hear Zakia Jafri’s plea against clean chit to Modi

Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta said Ms. Jafri was a resident of the Gulberg society.

Mr. Sibal however clarified repeatedly that Ms. Jafri’s case was distinct from the Gulberg one. The latter dealt with the massacre that took place in the Gulberg society alone. The case of Ms. Jafri dealt with pinning the criminal and administrative liability on the command structure within the Government of the time. Ms. Jafri’s case dealt with approximately 300 incidents of rioting, murder and violence that shook Gujarat in 2002.

“Our case concerned the well-planned unleashing of violence with police complicity and know-how of the State Government... The magistrate said he could not do anything since the Supreme Court had asked him to look only at the Gulberg Society case... The material in my case was not confined to Gulberg case, but concerned incidents which took place across. The Supreme Court referred my case to the magistrate for taking cognisance under Section 173 (2) CrPC...” Mr. Sibal argued.

He said there were 23,000 pages worth of documents.

“A Republic stands or falls depending on the court... We cannot trust anyone but the judiciary and courts... This is not a political issue, it is the administrative failure of the State that I am concerned... So many documents were destroyed... Should all this not be investigated?” Mr. Sibal asked.

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