Clean chit to Modi in Gulbarg Riots case

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The Gujarat High Court upheld the closure report of SIT that gave clean chit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and said that Zakia Jafri can challenge it further.

Jafri’s petition challenged a lower court order upholding the special investigation team’s clean chit to the then chief minister Modi and others in connection with the 2002 post- Godhra riots.

The hearing of the petition before Justice Sonia Gokani concluded on 3 July.

Jafri, wife of slain former MP Ehsan Jafri, and activist Teesta Setalvad’s NGO Citizen for Justice and Peace had moved the criminal review petition against a magistrate’s order upholding the clean chit given by the SIT to Modi and others regarding the allegations of a “larger criminal conspiracy” behind the riots.

The petition demanded that Modi and 59 others, including senior police officers and bureaucrats, be made accused for allegedly being part of a conspiracy which facilitated the riots.

It also sought the high court’s direction for fresh investigation into the matter.

Ehsan Jafri, a Congress leader, was among 68 people who were killed at the Gulberg Society when a mob attacked it on 28 February 2002, a day after the Godhra train burning incident which set off riots in the state.

The SIT submitted before the high court that its probe was conducted under the Supreme Court’s watchful eye, and its report was largely accepted by all. The lower court looked into all aspects of allegations to conclude that there was no further need to investigate the matter from the angle of “larger conspiracy”, the SIT argued.

Jafri’s lawyer Mihir Desai argued in the HC that the magistrate, while accepting the SIT’s closure report, did not even consider other options such as rejecting the report or ordering a fresh probe.

The lower court ignored the Supreme Court guidelines and did not consider signed statements of witnesses which suggested that there was a conspiracy, he argued.

The magistrate also ignored submissions of key witnesses such as (former IPS officers) Sanjiv Bhatt, RB Sreekumar and Rahul Sharma, and ignored the findings of Tehelka magazine’s sting operation, Desai told the HC.

The riots could have been prevented, and certain ministers, police officers and bureaucrats abetted the violence, he alleged.

The SIT’s closure report, filed on 8 February 2012, gave a clean chit to Modi and others. In December 2013, the metropolitan magistrate’s court rejected Jafri’s petition against the report, after which she moved the high court in 2014.

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