The Gujarat high court on Thursday rejected Zakia Jafri's plea challenging a lower court order upholding the Special Investigation Team's clean chit to the then chief minister Narendra Modi and others on the allegation of a larger conspiracy behind the 2002 post-Godhra riots.
Jafri's son, however, termed the ruling as a victory, as the court allowed the petitioners to approach an appropriate forum to seek re-investigation.
Justice Sonia Gokani rejected Jafri's contention that Modi, some senior police officers and bureaucrats were party to a larger conspiracy. The issue was already discussed by the Supreme Court in its 2015 order on a petition of former Indian Police Service officer Sanjiv Bhatt, said the judge.
The apex court considered the contentions regarding the larger conspiracy and dismissed them, the high court said.
Also, the probe carried out by the SIT was monitored by the Supreme Court, Justice Gokani said.
The high court, however, partly allowed Jafri's petition as far as its demand of a further investigation was concerned.
The lower court (metropolitan magistrate) had 'self-limited' itself by saying that it had limited powers with regard to ordering further investigation, it said.
The petitioner can approach an appropriate forum including the magistrate's court, a division bench of the high court or the Supreme Court seeking further investigation, the high court said.
Zakia Jafri, the wife of slain former MP and Congress leader Ehsan Jafri, and activist Teesta Setalvad's NGO Citizen for Justice and Peace had filed a criminal review petition against the magistrate's order upholding the clean chit given by the SIT to Modi and others.
The petition demanded that Modi and 59 others -- including senior police officers and bureaucrats -- be made accused for allegedly being part of a conspiracy which facilitated the riots. It had also sought the high court's direction for fresh investigation into the matter.
Ehsan Jafri was among 68 people killed at the Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad when a mob attacked it on February 28, 2002, a day after the Godhra train burning incident which set off riots in the state.
In December 2013, the magistrate's court rejected Zakia Jafri's plea seeking a case against Modi and others for criminal conspiracy, after which she moved the high court in 2014.
The SIT had, on February 8, 2012, filed a closure report and given clean chit to Modi and others in the case.
In the high court, the SIT lawyer submitted that its probe was conducted under the Supreme Court's watchful eye, and its report was largely accepted by all.
The lower court looked into all aspects of allegations to conclude that there was no further need to investigate the matter from the angle of larger conspiracy, the SIT argued.
Zakia Jafri's lawyer Mihir Desai argued that the magistrate, while accepting the SIT's closure report, did not even consider other options such as rejecting the report or ordering a fresh probe.
The lower court ignored the Supreme Court's guidelines and did not consider the signed statements of witnesses which had suggested that there was a conspiracy, he argued.
Reacting to today's ruling, Zakia Jafri's son Tanvir Jafri termed it a victory, saying that high court had allowed the petitioners to approach the lower court or any other appropriate forum to seek re-investigation.
"My mother sees this verdict as a victory, as the high court today made it clear that the lower court was wrong when it said that it does not have the power to ask the SIT to investigate the matter further. Thus we are happy because my mother's plea was partially allowed," Tanvir Jafri told PTI.
"We will consult our lawyers about the future course of action, as the high court has given us the option to approach the same magisterial court or the special SIT court which heard the Gulberg society riot case," he said.
Setalvad refused to comment on the ruling.