Terming as ”infructuous”, the Supreme Court on Tuesday closed as many as 11 petitions, including the one filed by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), almost 20 years ago seeking an independent probe into the 2002 Gujarat riots cases.
Besides NHRC, organisations like Citizens for Justice and Peace of activist Teesta Setalvad, had then moved the top court seeking various reliefs, including a court-monitored probe of the riots.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Uday Umesh Lalit and justices S Ravindra Bhat and J B Pardiwala considered the submissions of senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, the counsel for the court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT), and the lawyers of various petitioners including Aparna Bhat, appearing for the CJP, and said there was nothing left to be decided in these pleas now.
”Since all the matters have now become infructuous, this court is of the view that this court need not entertain these petitions any longer. The matters are therefore disposed of as having become infructuous,” the bench ruled.
The bench took note of the submission of the SIT that the trial in 'Naroda gaon' riots case, one of the nine cases which were probed and prosecuted by the SIT, was in the final stages in the trial court, while other matters have been decided by the lower courts and are pending in appellate stages either in the Gujarat high court or in the apex court.
”It is however directed that the trial with respect to Naroda gaon be taken to conclusion in accordance with law and to that extent, the SIT appointed by this court, is certainly entitled to take appropriate steps in accordance with law,” it said.
Referring to the cases, it said an appeal was filed in the apex court in 2002 seeking a CBI probe into the riots.
Around the same time, the NHRC also preferred a plea before the top court, and under the directions of the bench, an SIT was constituted and asked to conduct and monitor the investigation in nine major riots cases.
The bench took note of an order of 2018 observing that the purpose of these pleas have been served and they can be disposed of. ”Ms Aparna Bhat, Ejaz Maqbool and Amit Sharma, appearing for petitioners in connected matters, have also fairly assented that the matters have now become infructuous,” it noted in the order.
The court took note of the submission that one remaining aspect was the prayer for restoration of protection for Teesta Setalvad, who is currently in jail.
”As regards to the issue of protection, which was prayed for by Teesta Setalwad, we give liberty to her to make an appropriate prayer and move an application before the concerned authority. As and when such an application is made, the same shall be dealt in accordance with law,” it ordered.
Recently, another bench of the apex court upheld the SIT's clean chit to then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and 63 others in the 2002 riots and said there is no ”tittle of material” to support the allegation that violence after the Godhra incident was a ”pre-planned event" owing to the conspiracy hatched at the highest level in the state.
The state had witnessed widespread communal riots which started on February 28, 2002, a day after the Godhra train burning incident that claimed 59 lives.
The riots that it triggered killed 1,044 people. 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.