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Gujarat HC nullifies Banerjee Committee
Probe into Godhra carnage

Ahmedabad, October 13
In a setback to the UPA government at the Centre and Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, the Gujarat High Court today quashed the appointment of the U C Banerjee Committee whose report negated the conspiracy theory behind the Godhra train carnage, holding it as “unconstitutional, illegal and void.”

The court observed that the setting up of the committee violated the provisions of the commission of Inquiry Act and the Indian Railways Act because one commission (Justice Nanavati-Shah Commission) was already probing the incident in which 59 kar sevaks from Ayodhya were charred to death in February 2001.

The court verdict immediately sparked off a demand for Lalu Prasad’s resignation and for his sacking if he failed to do quit. The BJP also said the order was a big setback for the UPA government and Lalu should own moral responsibility for it.

Dismissing BJP’s claim that it was a setback, the Congress rejected the demand for Lalu’s resignation and said the high court verdict was not the last word in the judicial process. Lalu Prasad himself was not available for comments as he was on his way to Visakhapatnam by train.

The high court held that the findings of the Banerjee Committee that the fire of the S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express was an accident was against the order of the Railway Tribunal and prima facie findings of the local court which have accepted that the fire was the handiwork of mob.

The high court also ordered that the report of the Banerjee Committee should not be tabled in Parliament.

The appointment of the Banerjee Inquiry Committee was cleared by the Union Cabinet on a proposal by Railway The appointment of the Banerjee Inquiry Committee was cleared by the Union Cabinet on a proposal by Railway Minister Lalu Prasad in September 2004 with the UPA dispensation rejecting the Sangh Parivar theory that the fire to the coach carrying kar sevaks from Ayodhya was caused by inflammable material thrown from outside.

The Banerjee Committee had eliminated the theory of petrol being thrown from outside into the coach and suggested it could be an accidental fire.

The Gujarat High Court order comes following a petition by a survivor of train carnage Neelkanth Bhatia challenging the setting up of the Banerjee Committee on the ground that Justice Nanavati Shah Commission was already probing the matter.

The Commission of Inquiry Act says that Centre or state cannot appoint another Commission when one commission is inquiring the matter. — PTI

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