The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Special Investigation Team not to divulge Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's statement in connection with the Gujarat riots in 2002.
"We direct the SIT not to divulge any information collected during the course of investigation to anyone except the trial court and the public prosecutor concerned," a special bench headed by Justice D K Jain said.
The direction came when it was pointed out to the bench by the SIT that the commission headed by Justice G T Nanavati, which is probing the sequence of events in the 2002 riot cases, has sought the statement of Modi recorded by the investigating team.
"We direct that the statement shall not be supplied to the commission," said the bench, also comprising Justices P Sathasivam and Aftab Alam.
Modi's statement was recorded by the SIT on March 27-28 in connection with the riots at the Gulbarg society in Ahmedabad in which senior Congress leader Ehsan Jaffri was killed.
The bench also took strong exception to activist Teesta Setalvad contacting a prosecutor after the application of a victim was rejected by the trial court.
"We cannot appreciate this. It is very serious," the bench said and read out the comment of the supervising officer Ashish Bhatia, who is a senior IPS officer.
It was alleged that after an application moved by advocate Salim Sheikh was rejected by the trial court, Setalvad on July 19 had telephoned Special Public Prosecutor R C Kodekar and allegedly threatened to make a complaint in the apex court for objecting to the plea. Setalvad, who was present in the courtroom, admitted calling Kodekar but said the allegations were false and she only spoke about the witnesses.
The bench said it will accept her explanation but will pass a formal order as such conduct was 'unacceptable'.
"We are making it clear that henceforth nobody except the chairman and members of the SIT will be in touch with the public prosecutors. We also direct that if the SPPs engaged to conduct the trials of various cases want some inputs or face difficulty, they can keep themselves in touch with only the chairman or the members of the SIT for redressal of the same," the bench said while making it clear that it was ending the matter.
However, after passing of the order, advocate Kamini Jaiswal raised objection to Bhatia continuing as a member of the SIT on the ground that the inspector general of police comes from the Gujarat cadre.
Jaiswal's remarks did not go well with the bench which retorted, "You are reopening the issue".
Meanwhile, the court issued a show cause notice to the Maharashtra government for not relieving senior police officer Dr K Venkateshan, who has been identified as one of the two members to be included in the SIT after two Gujarat cadre officers, Geeta Johri and Shivanand Jha, were moved out of the probe panel by the apex court.
"Notice be issued to the Maharashtra government to show cause as to why a direction be not issued to it to release the officer to join SIT constituted by this court," the bench said and sought the state government's response within a week.
Former Central Bureau of Investigation's Director and Chairman of the SIT R K Raghavan said the other member Y C Modi, a senior Assam cadre IPS officer, has already joined the panel.
Raghavan told the bench that he had communication with the home ministry regarding the appointment of Venkateshan, who is an officer of high integrity and competence, but the Maharashtra government was not willing to relieve him.
The other member is C P Satpathy, a former director general of police of Uttar Pradesh. The bench also dismissed an application of an NGO led by Setalvad, seeking that the names of new members of the SIT should be placed before the judges ahead of their appointment.
"We do not find any merit to modify our order in this regard," the bench said, adding that the counsel should have faith in the members of the investigating team.
The court posted the matter for further hearing on September 30. The SIT is monitoring ten cases of 2002 Gujarat riots on the directions of the apex court. The cases relate to Gulberg Society, Ode, Sardarpura, Narodao Gaon, Naroda Patya, Baranpura, Machipith, Tarsali, Pandarwada and Raghavapura.
The apex court also permitted the SIT to carry out further investigation into the cases. The order was passed after Raghavan made a plea that some more persons were required to be interrogated.
The bench noted that the SIT wanted to probe the alleged involvement of former Gujarat minister G Zadafia and M K Tandon, a senior police officer and two other policemen. Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, appearing for a local MLA who has been named as an accused in the complaint filed by Jafri's widow, submitted that he should be heard for his plea seeking recall of the April 27, 2009 order asking SIT to look into Zakia Jafri's allegations.
The court said it would look into it later as the SIT was proceeding for probe against some people. The senior advocate submitted that the filing of the reports in the sealed cover was like an anathema to the judicial process and asked the court to bring them in the public domain.
Meanwhile, former CBI DIG A K Malhotra, who was appointed by the apex court to verify allegations of lapses in investigations being conducted by the SIT, submitted its report in the sealed cover.
The report also contained the comments of SIT chief Raghavan. The bench said the report would be handed over to advocate Prashant Bhushan, who is assisting the court as amicus curiae, in the petition filed by Jafri's widow.