Gujarat riots: SC upholds SIT clean chit to Modi, terms Zakia Jafri plea devoid of merit

Congress leader and former MP Ehsan Jafri was among the 68 people killed at Ahmedabad's Gulberg Society during violence on February 28, 2002, a day after the Godhra train burning that claimed 59 lives.
Gujarat riots: SC upholds SIT clean chit to Modi, terms Zakia Jafri plea devoid of merit
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a public rally, in Bahraich. [Representational picture]File/ANI

New Delhi, Jun 24: The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the SIT's clean chit to then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and 63 others in the 2002 riots in the state and dismissed a plea by slain Congress leader Ehsan Jafri's wife Zakia who had alleged a larger conspiracy.

Bringing the curtains down on the bid to reopen the probe, a bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar said the material collected during the investigation does not give rise to strong or grave suspicion regarding hatching of larger criminal conspiracy at the highest level for causing mass violence against Muslims.

The bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and C T Ravikumar, termed Zakia Jafri's plea devoid of merit. It spoke of the devious stratagem to keep the pot boiling, obviously, for ulterior design and said all those involved in such abuse of process need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law .

Zakia Jafri had challenged the SIT's clean chit to 64 people, including Modi who was the Gujarat chief minister at the time, and alleged a larger conspiracy.

The apex court appreciated the Special Investigation Team (SIT) for its indefatigable work in challenging circumstances and said it has come out with flying colours unscathed .

The top court said no fault can be found with the SIT's approach and its February 8, 2012 final report is backed by firm logic, expositing analytical mind and dealing with all aspects objectively for discarding the allegations regarding larger criminal conspiracy

The bench upheld the decision of a magistrate in accepting the final report submitted by the SIT and rejecting the protest petition filed by Zakia Jafri. She had challenged the Gujarat High Court's October 5, 2017 order rejecting her plea against the SIT decision.

We do not countenance the submission of the appellant regarding infraction of rule of law in the matter of investigation and the approach of the magistrate and the high court in dealing with the final report, the bench said in its 452-page judgement.

Congress leader and former MP Ehsan Jafri was among the 68 people killed at Ahmedabad's Gulberg Society during violence on February 28, 2002, a day after the Godhra train burning that claimed 59 lives.

The riots that it triggered killed 1,044 people, mostly Muslims.

Giving details, the Central government informed the Rajya Sabha in May 2005 that 254 Hindus and 790 Muslims were killed in the post Godhra riots.

In its verdict, the apex court noted that the SIT had formed its opinion after considering all the material collated during the investigation. The question of further probe would have arisen only on the availability of new material/information in connection with the allegation of larger conspiracy at the highest level, which is not forthcoming in this case.

As aforementioned, the SIT has gone by the logic of falsity of the information or material and including the same remaining uncorroborated.

In that, the materials collected during the investigation do not give rise to strong or grave suspicion regarding hatching of larger criminal conspiracy at the highest level for causing mass violence across the state against the minority community and more so, indicating involvement of the named offenders and their meeting of minds at some level in that regard, it said.

The bench said the magistrate after applying his mind independently to the final report and the material appended chose to accept it as it is without issuing any other direction to the SIT.

According to the bench, it appeared that there was a coalesced effort of disgruntled officials of Gujarat along with others to create sensation by making revelations that were false. And the falsity of their claims had been fully exposed by the SIT after a thorough investigation.

Intriguingly, the present proceedings have been pursued for last 16 years (from submission of complaint dated June 8, 2006 running into 67 pages and then by filing protest petition dated April 15, 2013 running into 514 pages) including with the audacity to question the integrity of every functionary involved in the process of exposing the devious stratagem adopted (to borrow the submission of counsel for the SIT), to keep the pot boiling, obviously, for ulterior design, it said.

As a matter of fact, all those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law, the bench said.

"Accordingly, we hold that this appeal is devoid of merits and resultantly, deserves to be dismissed in the aforementioned terms. We order accordingly.

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