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SC orders relook in 156 Gujarat riot acquittals
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, August 23
After ordering the reopening of over 2,000 closed riot cases in Gujarat last week, the Supreme Court today directed the state’s Advocate-General (AG) to personally examine 156 cases in which a large number of accused had been acquitted by the trial courts due to lackadaisical prosecution but no appeals had been filed in the High Court.

Taking step-by-step approach to deal with various aspects of the post-Godhra violence in Gujarat, a special Bench comprising Ms Justice Ruma Pal, Mr Justice S.B. Sinha and Mr Justice S.H. Kaparid directed the AG to examine the cases within four weeks and submit a report.

The AG was specially summoned to give details about the procedure being followed by the Gujarat Government for filing appeals against accused acquitted by the trial courts.

“We are of the view that with regard to 156 cases of acquittals, the AG will scrutinise them all...for filing appeals,” the Bench said.

Expressing concern over such a large number of acquittals, the Court further directed that the public prosecutors (PPs) in each district should be instructed by the state’s Law Department to submit the reports about the failure of the case in future promptly to the Joint Secretary or the Law Secretary to examine them for the filing of appeals.

The AG, in whom all parties, including amicus curiae Harish Salve and counsel for various petitioners reposed full faith and confidence, was allowed by the Court to take assistance of lawyers of his choice for examining the cases.

The Court was informed that out of about 2,500 cases in which prosecution had been launched by the Gujarat Government, judgments in 217 had been pronounced so far. Of these, 211 had resulted in the acquittal of all accused persons, four resulted in conviction and two in partial conviction.

The state had filed appeals in the Gujarat High Court in 45 cases and 16 were under process for filing of the same, Gujarat’s counsel Mukul Rohtagi told the Court.

But the Law Department had decided against the filing of appeals in the remaining cases, he said.

Not satisfied with the state of affairs in the Law Department, the Court said the cases in which appeals had not been preferred have to be re-examined considering the abnormal situation in the state.

The Court, which had been step-by-step taking all aspects of the riot cases, said it would take up the petitions of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), some NGOs and individual victims, seeking transfer of about 15 major cases outside Gujarat for hearing on September 6. This includes the Godhra train carnage case related to the burning alive of 56 kar sevaks in Sabarmati Express, which had sparked off large-scale riots in the state.

It, meanwhile, stayed the trial in a case related to the killing of two British Muslim NRIs and their two Gujarati relatives as their relatives had sought CBI probe as well as transfer of the case outside Gujarat. Today’s directive of the apex court was third in the series after it had transferred the Best Bakery and Bilkis cases to Mumbai and ordered the reopening of over 2000 closed cases.


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