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Probe Modi’s role in Godhra riots: SC
Gives SIT three months to submit report
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, April 27
The Supreme Court today directed the Special Investigation Team (SIT) that probed the 2002 Godhra train fire and the subsequent riots to investigate a complaint against Chief Minister Narendra Modi, his cabinet colleagues and top police and administration officials that they had aided and abetted the mob violence.

A Bench comprising Justices Arijit Pasayat and Asok Kumar Ganguly said the SIT, headed by former CBI Director RK Raghavan, would submit its report within three months. The Bench issued the order on a petition filed by one Jakia Nasim Ahesan, widow of a riot victim. Senior counsel Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, relied on the affidavits of RB Srikumar, who was ADGP of Gujarat at the time of the riots, filed before the Nanavati Commission, which had also gone into the issue.

Bhushan said Jakia had approached the then DGP, PK Chakravarty, to register an FIR and on his refusal approached the Gujarat High Court through a writ petition. The HC, however, dismissed the petition on various grounds, including the petition had relied "heavily" upon the affidavits of Srikumar, the complaints were general in nature and that she could approach the SIT or a magistrate.

Appearing for Gujarat, senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi contended that the SIT had gone into the complaint but Bhushan disputed this, upon which the Bench issued the order.

According to Srikumar, he was "tutored" by GC Murmu, the then Secretary (Law and Order) in the Home Department, and Arvind Pandya, government pleader to the Nanavati Commission, on August 24, 2004.

"They directed me to avoid giving any statement, which could embarrass the government. They also insisted that they had briefed all witnesses, including government officials, to depose before the commission, without harming government interests.

“In short, the whole meeting was pre-planned and well-focused exercise to coerce me to suppress facts, tell lies and present data in such a manner that would not expose the government functionaries, senior politicians and others who played diabolical and criminal role during the long drawn-out communal riots, post the Godhra incident,” Srikumar had stated. He, however, did not heed their advice.

“My deposition to the commission was, therefore, a major irritant to the government and particularly, the Hon’ble Chief Minister,” he added.

Quoting his senior, Srikumar said Modi had convened a meeting in his (CM’s) chamber on his return from Godhra and made the following remarks: “In communal riots police takes action against Hindus and Muslims on one to one basis. This will not do now, allow Hindus to give vent to their anger.”

The petition also alleged that Modi held meetings with his Cabinet colleagues and top-level bureaucrats at which “illegal instructions were issued” to “perform illegal acts”. This was evident from the deposition of then Minister Haren Pandya, since dead, before a Citizens Tribunal constituted and headed by former SC Judges.

On April 21, the apex court had made it clear that it would “intervene” wherever necessary to ensure that fast-track courts (FTCs) conduct a “fair trial” in cases relating to the Gujarat riots. A three-Judge Bench headed by Justice Arijit Pasayat said the Special Investigation Team (SIT) that was monitoring the probe would also keep a watch on the trial and submit quarterly reports to the apex court.

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