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Reopen riot cases, SC tells Gujarat
S. S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, August 17
After assessing various aspects of the Gujarat riots for over a year, the Supreme Court today ordered the re-examination of over 2,000 closed cases by a special cell of the state police under the direct supervision of the DGP to determine if fresh investigation in any of them was required.

The court also summoned the state’s Advocate-General (AG) on August 23 to explain the reasons for the acquittal of accused in a large number of cases by the trial courts and the procedure being followed by the state for the filing of appeals in the higher courts.

A Bench of Ms Justice Ruma Pal, Mr Justice S. B. Sinha and Mr Justice S. H. Kapadia directed that the cell to re-examine the cases would comprise two Additional DGPs and seven Range Inspectors-General (RIGs).

The direction was issued by the court while considering three important aspects of the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat—fresh investigation in the cases closed, examination of the cases that resulted in the acquittal of a large number of accused due shoddy investigation and the award of compensation to the riot victims for the state’s failure to protect their lives and properties — as raised in a batch of applications on these issues.

“In order to provide integrated approach to the issue raised in the applications and having regard to the pooling of a mechanism for monitoring of the investigation, we direct the Gujarat Government to notify the setting up of the cell under the DGP,” the Bench in its order said.

It said the cell would look into each FIR, the summary closure reports submitted to the courts and if it came to the conclusion that “fresh investigation is required, the same shall be carried out by police officers other than those who had carried it out earlier and filed the closure reports.”

“If the cell came to the conclusion that probe is not required in a case, it would record reasons for the same and put it on the Internet so that anyone can take note of it and bring it to the notice of the court,” the apex court said.

It also said that the cell would take into account any facts about a case brought to its notice by the NGOs, which had been helping the riot victims.

The Range IGs would submit their reports to the DGP as the examination of each case progressed and the same would be placed before the DGP after thorough examination and periodic submission to the apex court after every three months, the Bench said.

On the question of the acquittal of a large number of accused in at least 37 cases by the courts due to lack of evidence or shoddy investigation, the court sought the presence of the state’s Advocate-General on Monday next to make submissions with regard to the procedure being followed by the state about filing of appeals against the acquittal orders.

The state government was at the same time directed to furnish details as to how many cases had resulted in acquittal till August 19.

It was also directed to specify the date when a decision was taken by the state government’s Law Department whether an appeal needed to be filed or not in a particular case, what was the nature of the offence and what was the basis for not filing the appeal.

Regarding the grant of compensation to the victims, the court refrained to pass an order at this stage in view of the Gujarat High Court monitoring the state government’s scheme for compensation.

The petitioner NGO, Citizens for Justice and Peace, was granted permission to raise the issue of “inadequacy” of the scheme before the High Court.

Amicus Curiae Harish Salve said the NGO and noted author Mahashweta Devi had challenged the compensation scheme on the ground that the amount being granted by the state government for the damages caused to life and property during riots was grossly “inadequate”. It also did not take care of victims of sexual assault and those who suffered injuries during arson and looting.

The court was informed that the compensation in the case of death was fixed at Rs 1.5 lakh per victim, Rs 50,000 for complete damage of the house and Rs 10,000 for damage to household goods.


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