The Gujarat government on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that an inquiry panel that examined the steps taken to prevent the 2002 communal violence in the state had concluded that “all reasonable steps” were taken by the administration, reported The Indian Express.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta made the submission before the Supreme Court during a hearing of the riots case. Zakia Jafri, the wife of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, who was killed in the violence, has challenged a Special Investigation Team’s clean chit to 64 people, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was the chief minister of Gujarat in 2002.
Ehsan Jafri was among the 69 people who were killed when a mob went on a rampage in Ahmedabad’s Gulberg society on February 28, 2002, pelting stones and setting fire to homes.
Jafri’s counsel has argued that there was “a larger conspiracy” involving bureaucratic inaction, police complicity and hate speech that led to the violence.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Mehta referred to a report submitted by the inquiry commission, which was led by Justice GT Nanavati, to show that the government took steps to prevent violence, including emergency meetings and deployment of senior police officials to sensitive areas, reported Live Law.
“Regular police force was put on alert, the ones on leave were asked to join immediately,” Mehta said.
Calling the Gulberg society killings “unprecedented”, the solicitor general said that the people found guilty were convicted by judges who were appointed by the then chief justice.
“It’s nobody’s case that guilty have gone unpunished,” he said. “Convictions and acquittals have taken place.”
Mehta also alleged that activist Teesta Setalvad, who was petitioner number 2, wants to “keep the pot boiling” in the name of petitioner no 1, Zakia Jafri. “This would be a travesty of justice, which the court may not allow,” he said.
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Jafri, refuted the allegations against Setalvad, saying that “suddenly her character is being smudged”.
“If you stoke the fire, the pot will boil,” Sibal said. “If you keep stoking the fire, the pot will continue to boil. That’s what’s happening.”
Sibal pointed out that the Supreme Court had taken the “extraordinary step” of putting a stay on nine trial cases, though the government was insisting that “everything was okay”.
The advocate asked if everything was “hunky dory” in Gujarat, why the National Human Rights Commission of India had also sought transfer of trials.
“That’s how the appellant [Setalvad] became part of this, because she worked with NHRC, worked with amicus curiae, appeared in proceedings before this court,” he said. “The SIT never took objection”.
Sibal also argued that the findings of the commission of inquiry report were not admissible.
“They have been quoting para and verse from the commission of enquiry,” he said. “We were at least taught in law school that nothing can be done on reports of the commission of enquiry, findings are inadmissible because it is not a court.”
In earlier hearings, Jafri alleged that the special investigation team was involved with some of the accused in the riots case. She also alleged that the team had ignored crucial evidence and filed a closure report without conducting a proper investigation. She has demanded an inquiry against the team.
The special investigation team had submitted its closure report on February 8, 2012, saying there was no prosecutable evidence against accused persons, including Modi, in the riots cases.
In 2013, when Jafri had filed a petition opposing the closure report, the magistrate, who had received the report, upheld it and dismissed her petition.
She had then moved the Gujarat High Court. In 2017, the High Court upheld the magistrate’s decision and dismissed her plea.
Jafri then moved the Supreme Court, which said it would examine the closure report.