The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a petition by Zakia Jafri, the wife of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, challenging the report of a Special Investigation Team that had cleared Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a case pertaining to the 2002 Gujarat riots, Bar and Bench reported. Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat at that time.
The court said the plea was filed “to keep the pot boiling for ulterior design”.
“The present proceedings have been pursued for last 16 years including with the audacity to question the integrity of every functionary involved in the process of exposing the devious stratagem adopted [to borrow the submission of learned counsel for the SIT], to keep the pot boiling, obviously, for ulterior design,” it said.
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. A day ago, 59 persons were killed when a coach of the Sabarmati Express was burnt at Godhra.
The Supreme Court had reserved its verdict on Zakia Jafri’s plea alleging a larger conspiracy on December 9.
On Friday, a bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and CT Ravikumar upheld the decision of a magistrate to accept the Special Investigation Team’s closure in a case pertaining to an alleged larger conspiracy behind the violence. The court held that the petition was devoid of merits, Live Law reported.
“We don’t countenance the submission of the appellant [Zakia Jafri] regarding infraction of rule of law regarding investigation and the approach of the Magistrate and the High Court in dealing with the final report,” the court said.
The judges said that the evidence collected during the investigation does not point to the the fact that a criminal conspiracy was hatched “at the highest level for causing mass violence across the State against the minority community”, Bar and Bench reported.
The Special Investigation Team’s report had cleared 64 people, including Modi, in the case.
On Friday, the judges said that the report was backed by “firm logic”, Bar and Bench reported.
They also hailed the Special Investigation Team for the “indefatigable work done”, and having “come out with flying colours unscathed”.
“The report exposited analytical mind and dealing with all aspects objectively for discarding the allegations regarding larger criminal conspiracy [at the highest level] for causing and precipitating mass violence across the State against the minority community during the relevant period,” the court said.
It added: “As aforementioned, the SIT has gone by the logic of falsity of the information or material and including the same remaining uncorroborated.”
It also criticised Gujarat officials, including the state’s former Director General of Police RB Sreekumar, for making “sensational revelations” about the violence.
“At the end of the day, it appears to us that a coalesced effort of the disgruntled officials of the state of Gujarat along with others was to create sensation by making revelations which were false to their own knowledge,” the judgement said. “The falsity of their claims had been fully exposed by the SIT after a thorough investigation.”
In December, the Nanavati Commission had questioned the credibility and role of Sreekumar along with another retired police officer at the time of the riots.
The judges accused the officials of having an ulterior motive, Bar and Bench reported.
“As a matter of fact, all those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law,” the court added.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Gujarat government, told the court that he is grateful for upholding the clearance.
During the hearings in the case, Zakia Jafri’s counsel Kapil Sibal had argued that the Special Investigation Team did not examine all the material and alleged that the State had helped propagate hate, according to Bar and Bench.
He said that police personnel, bureaucrats and politicians had been exchanging messages over mobile phones. However, the phones were not seized and their contents were not examined, he claimed.
“The point here is that the dead bodies were flashed on the TV channels in that state, that obviously led to the anger,” Sibal said. “Material was circulated to push for economic boycott of Muslims. Mutilated pictures of Sabarmati Express, pamphlets of do-it-yourself brutalities were circulated. The material was given to the SIT, they never looked at it.”
Sibal also referred to a statement by Rahul Sharma, the former superintendent of police at Bhavnagar, that a newspaper in the city had urged Hindus and Hindutva organisations to retaliate against Muslims. However, no action was taken against the newspaper, he said.
On the other hand, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Special Investigation Team, said that former Gujarat minister Maya Kodnani was arrested and convicted in a case related to the riots. “She was in jail for so many years,” he said. “If SIT was partisan, then why would they arrest a sitting minister?”
Mehta claimed that activist Teesta Setalvad, who was one of the petitioners, took advantage of Jafri’s plight to “keep the pot boiling”.
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 that said it would examine the closure report.