Futile exercise?

MUKUL SINHA is a lawyer fighting for the victims of the 2002 riots before the G.T. Nanavati and K.G. Shah judicial inquiry commission. He is not very optimistic about the outcome of the Supreme Court's directive to the Gujarat Government to review and reopen about 2,000 lesser-known riot-related cases.

In an interview to The Hindu , Dr. Sinha said while he would be "delighted" if the proposed exercise by a committee of top policemen produced tangible results, he was not sure if even 10 per cent of the reopened cases would stand legal scrutiny. A majority of the cases were "genuine" but since the police had not investigated them at the "right time and in the right manner," they would not stand legal scrutiny, he said.

According to Dr. Sinha, nearly 30 per cent of the cases were recorded as "A" summary cases and closed down because the accused "could not be traced" or were "non-existent." The committee was only required to "review" the police records; it was unlikely these cases would be reopened.

Even if new facts were brought out or police duplicity was established, nothing could be achieved in the absence of evidence that was never collected, he said.

In another 30 per cent of the cases, Hindus and Muslims had reached a "compromise" and the latter had resettled in their villages, he said. "I doubt how many of the original complainants will agree to pursue matters further."

Of the remaining cases, nearly 30 per cent had been registered as "B" summary cases. After investigation, they were found to be "false complaints" and closed by the police, Dr. Sinha said. These, he added, included almost all the cases in which the names of prominent leaders or police officials figured as accused. The committee could convert the "B" into "A" summary cases and reopen them if "found suitable." But two-and-a-half years after the riots, it would be almost impossible to nail the guilty, he said.

The remaining 10 per cent cases had been placed in the "C" summary category involving civil suits over property acquisition. These, Dr. Sinha said, included complaints of forcible possession of house or landed property or construction of temples on such lands. Such disputes that would need tremendous legal scrutiny and documentary evidence, he pointed out. "I am happy at the Supreme Court directive but the exercise is unlikely to produce tangible results."