A day after grilling Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the chief of Supreme Court-appointed SIT going into the Gujarat riots on Sunday said his questioning in the Gulbarg Society case was a "very big step forward in unravelling quite a few mysteries" and was confident he would file his report in the apex court by the April 30 deadline.
On questioning of Modi, 59, by former CBI DIG A K Malhotra in two sessions lasting in nearly 10 hours, SIT chief R K Raghavan declined to go into details and said the panel reserves its right to recall the chief minister for questioning again if necessary as is the practice followed in the case of any other witness.
He also would not comment on questions whether the SIT would be filing an FIR in the Gulbarg case in the wake of replies given by the Chief Minister, saying he would have to first "appreciate evidence" after going through the replies.
Raghavan, a former CBI director, who was appointed head of the SIT by the apex court, said the questioning of the chief minister "is a very big step forward in trying tounderstand and unravel quite a few mysteries of what happened there (in the case of Gulbarg Housing Society where former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri and 68 others were killed)."
'Zakia petition SIT's Bible'
Raghavan said that the petition of Zakia was the SIT's "Bible" and questions broadly related to it.
On whether Modi would be called for questioning again, Raghavan said, "That depends on appreciation of evidence. When it reaches my table, I will have a look. If there are any grey areas or lacunae or gaps possibly we may have a think. But there is no certainty.
"This applies to every witness. If I find there are some gaps, the SIT has a right to recall any witness."
Queried about submitting the report to the Supreme Court, Raghavan said, "I am reasonably confident that I will meet the deadline of April 30. I will beat the deadline barring accidents. We will burn the midnight oil."
He rejected allegations of delay or bias on the part of the SIT, saying it were doing a good job and "ultimately we are accountable to the law and the courts. We respect contrary views."
Asked whether Modi was relaxed, he said he saw him on only on television. "Malhotra is relaxed and he is a man of grace. I am sure he extended utmost courtesy to the chief minister."
About the long questioning of the chief minister and whether it was because it covered the entire events, Raghavan said, "That is my conjecture."
But, he added, the evidence had to be properly taken, typed and signature of the chief minister had also to be taken.
On why he did not question Modi, Raghavan said as a "CBI bird", he brought in the practice of the agency head not questioning witnesses or accused. "Malhotra is the enquiry officer and I don't want to curb his style."
Raghavan said, "I have greatest concern for the victims and right through my life, I have never turned my eye away from doing justice. I never flinch when I'm doing justice to a person who has been victimised.
"I am quite conscious of my responsibilities here. I think it is a sacred trust which has been given to me by the Supreme
Asked if he was worried that a lot of evidence has been lost, he said, "I can't comment on it. I don't want to go into the nitty gritty of the investigation."
Conscious decision to keep Gujarat officers away
He said as far as the inquiry is concerned, he had "consciously" kept all Gujarat officers away.
"With respect to the other nine, I think they are doing a fine job and I don't subscribe to the view that they are going slow. Let us wait.
Let the court give the verdict."
The SIT chief said broadly, he and Malhotra had discussed the questions to be put to Modi but he has not yet discussed the answers with him.
62 queries imaginary figure
On whether 62 questions were put to Modi, he said it seems an "imaginary figure".
"Let him (Malhotra) give his report. I won't breathe down his neck. The fact that I have brought in Malhotra shows I have tremendous respect for him," he said, noting that after going through the officer's report, he would remit it to legal opinion.
Asked whether the chief minister fully cooperated in the questioning, Raghavan said, "The fact that he came we are happy. There has been an active dialogue."
On whether he was under any political pressure, Raghavan said, "Do I look like a man under pressure? I am relaxed... I do my job. I can quote the Bhagwad Gita. I do my duty. I don't expect any fruit thereof. I believe in all religions."