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Gujarat riots cases: Advani blames lapses on justice system
October 09, 2003 18:32 IST
Last Updated: October 10, 2003 01:58 IST
Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani acknowledged today that the Supreme Court's observations on the handling of riot cases by the Gujarat government were embarrassing, but said it had to be seen in the context of the wider criminal justice system.
"What happened in Gujarat could disturb anyone," Advani told Karan Thapar on Hard Talk on BBC World. "And when one finds that the offenders are not brought to book, it certainly creates a strong reaction. I have seen [it happen in] so many cases. I have seen cases that collapsed totally simply because the system is such."
Replying to a question on the chief justice's comment on the manner in which the Gujarat government had been handling the Best Bakery case, Advani said, "It is the entire system of criminal justice which needs to be corrected, not in just one case." The judiciary, he said, should have thrown light on how witnesses turning hostile could be checked.
In a wide-ranging interview to be telecast on Friday, Advani disagreed with the allegation by former Indian Administrative Service officer Harsh Mander, who now heads a non-governmental organisation, that there was a systematic plan to subvert justice in Gujarat.
"A large section of the people think that what happened is wrong, should not have happened, but at the same time, they do not blame the government or the ruling party," Advani said.
He denied that the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Gujarat was acting in collusion with the riot accused and shielding them. "If that were true," he said, "this government would not have been returned to power with such a massive majority."
When it was pointed out to him that the chief justice of India had observed that winning a majority did not necessarily mean the guilty should not be prosecuted, Advani agreed, but added, "At the same time, when people decide about a certain government, they are not oblivious to allegations of the kind that are being made."
He pleaded ignorance when told that the Gujarat government had appointed a Vishwa Hindu Parishad general secretary as public prosecutor in the Sardarpura riots case, in which 33 people were burnt alive. But a person's affiliations could not be reason enough to bar his/her appointment as public prosecutor, he said.