Zakia Jafri, the wife of slain Congress leader Ehsan Jafri who was killed at Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002, during the violence, has challenged the SIT’s clean chit to 64 people including Narendra Modi, the then Gujarat chief minister during the riots.
“What I am trying to submit is that it is being blown out of proportion, completely blown out of proportion by saying that everybody in the state government from the highest to the lowest, everybody in the political class, everybody in the state administration, everybody in the police is complicit,” senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the SIT, told the bench.
Rohatgi told the bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and C T Ravikumar, that there were allegations made about some glaring examples of “state-sponsored events”.
“See the impact of this. That is why I have said this case has gone haywire,” he said, adding, “What do you mean by state-sponsored? Does it mean that people in the administration, the political class have sponsored these riots?”.
Arguing that there was nothing to substantiate the allegation of a larger conspiracy, he said that SIT had investigated all the aspects, examined relevant materials, and then filed a report before the trial court.
“The SIT examined everybody from the chief minister downwards, major people in the cabinet, including the chief minister, top police officials, top civil administration officers …. all this was done. It is not as if they (SIT) did not examine the chief minister or anybody else,” he said during the arguments which would continue on December 1.
The senior advocate said the allegation that there was undue delay in deployment of the Army during the violence in the state was not justified.
He said Army was called the same day and deployed and this destroy the allegations of conspiracy, whether by the political class, the state government, or the police.
“Why did not the government do this, why did not the government transfer this, these are not meant to be criminality or conspiracy. But yet, this SIT devoted a huge amount of time on all these issues. They did not leave a single issue by saying it is beyond our remit,” he said.
During the hearing, the bench asked Rohatgi whether the petitioner had participated in the trial which was going on before the trial court.
He said Zakia Jafri was examined as a prosecution witness during the trial.
The bench told Rohatgi that if her evidence is available, it can be placed on record.
The senior advocate also told the bench that 19 out of the 275 persons examined by the SIT were prosecution witnesses in the Gulberg case.
Rohatgi told the bench that during the arguments before the apex court, Zakia Jafri has not pressed the issue regarding the complaint against the then chief minister.
The bench asked senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who is appearing for Zakia Jafri, about it.
“All matters which require further investigation, I have read to your lordships,” Sibal said, adding, “I have purposely not read any part of any allegation against the then CM”.
He said the petitioner was not asking for any further investigation on the meeting of February 27.
Rohatgi said the court may note that allegation against the then chief minister in the complaint or what was recorded in the closure report and accepted by the court below is not being assailed.
To this, Sibal said, “That is not being pressed for further investigation.”
“Tomorrow, if there is some other evidence that comes up, I don’t know, I have no idea. That is the law of this country that if tomorrow any other fresh evidence comes up which is not available today, nothing is ever closed forever. See what happened to the Sikh riots,” Sibal said.
Sibal said he would give a written statement on behalf of the petitioner on this.
Zakia Jafri’s counsel had earlier argued that her complaint of 2006 was that there was “a larger conspiracy where there was bureaucratic inaction, police complicity, hate speeches and unleashing of violence”.
Ehsan Jafri, the former MP, was among the 68 people killed in the violence, a day after the Godhra train incident.
On February 8, 2012, the SIT had filed a closure report giving a clean chit to Modi, now the Prime Minister, and 63 others including senior government officials, saying there was “no prosecutable evidence” against them.
Zakia Jafri had filed a petition in the apex court in 2018 challenging the Gujarat High Court’s October 5, 2017 order rejecting her plea against the SIT decision.
The high court in its October 2017 order had said the SIT probe was monitored by the Supreme Court.
However, it partly allowed her petition as far as its demand for a further investigation was concerned saying she can approach an appropriate forum, including the magistrate’s court, a division bench of the high court, or the Supreme Court seeking further investigation.