Eleven international scholars on Friday urged the Supreme Court to take suo motu notice of the fallout of its judgement in the Zakia Jafri case, expunge the “derogatory” remarks contained in it and dismiss the case against co-petitioner Teesta Setalvad and former Gujarat police chief RB Sreekumar.
Zakia Jafri is the wife of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, who was hacked to death during the 2002 Gujarat riots. More than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, died in the violence after a coach of the Sabarmati Express was burnt in Godhra.
Zakia Jafri and Setalvad’s non-governmental organisation Citizens for Justice had moved the Supreme Court challenging the report of a Special Investigation Team that had cleared Modi of involvement in the riots. They sought a fresh investigation into the “larger conspiracy” behind the violence.
In a statement on Friday, the scholars said that since Jafri and Setalvad had challenged the SIT report and had sought an independent investigation, it was unjust on the part of the Supreme Court to dismiss the petition “on the basis of the very same impugned SIT report”.
They also said that the Supreme Court “gratuitously and wholly unfairly” attributed ulterior motives to the petitioners, which led to the arrests of Setalvad and Sreekumar.
“If any patient, prolonged, peaceful, and entirely legitimate pursuit of justice through the due process, is called ‘keeping the pot boiling’, then this remark, quite apart from being offensive, discourages people from approaching the Court on any matter relating to excesses or dereliction on the part of the executive,” the signatories said.
The signatories to the statement were Bhiku Parekh, Noam Chomsky, Arjun Appadurai, Wendy Brown, Sheldon Pollock, Carol Rovane, Charles Taylor, Martha Nussbaum, Robert Pollin, Akeel Bilgrami and Gerald Epstein.
They said that the Supreme Court passed the remarks without giving a hearing to those against whom the comments were directed, adding that this set an unfortunate precedent.
Noting that apart from the Emergency period, the Supreme Court had generally played an honourable role in defending the democratic commitments of India, the academicians stated “which is why we are dismayed by the recent tendency discernible in the Zakia Jafri judgement”.
On June 24, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition challenging the SIT report stating that certain people had filed the petition “to keep the pot boiling for ulterior design”. It had said that these people must be “in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law”.
A day after the judgement, Setalvad and Sreekumar were booked by the Gujarat Police’s Anti-Terrorism Squad. The first information report filed against them quoted heavily from the Supreme Court judgement.