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Huge relief for Narendra Modi, gets clean chit in 2002 riots

Last updated on: December 26, 2013 18:36 IST
Gujarat CM Narendra Modi at a rally in Mumbai

In a major relief to Chief Minister Narendra Modi, a metropolitan court on Saturday rejected the protest petition filed by Zakia Jafri, wife of a former Congress MP, against the clean chit given to him and others by the Special Investigation Team in the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Metropolitan Magistrate B J Ganatra while pronouncing the order in open court told Zakia's counsel Mihir Desai that her petition has been rejected and they have the liberty to approach a higher court.

Jafri, whose husband Ehsan Jafri, a former Congress MP, was among the 68 people killed in the Gulbarg society massacre here during the post-Godhra riots, had filed a protest petition on April 15, this year objecting to the Supreme Court-appointed SIT's closure report absolving Modi of complicity in the conspiracy behind the carnage.

Seventy-four-year-old Zakia, who was present at the court, broke down after the verdict was out and said she will appeal against it in the higher court in a month.

"The only hurdle in the acceptance of SIT's recommendations was the protest petition and the protest petition was rejected, obviously the SIT report has been accepted. So, SIT's investigation, integrity, impartiality, all have been given a judicial stamp," R S Jamuar, SIT's counsel, told reporters after the verdict.

After completing its investigation on Zakia's complaint, the SIT had had filed its closure report on February 8, last year. It concluded that despite difficulties in obtaining evidence in the case because of the lapse of eight years, whatever material it could gather was not sufficient enough to prosecute those against whom allegations of hatching the conspiracy had been levelled.

In her petition, Zakia had demanded rejection of the SIT report and an order by the court to file chargesheet against Modi, BJP's prime ministerial candidate, and others.

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Huge relief for Narendra Modi, gets clean chit in 2002 riots

Last updated on: December 26, 2013 18:36 IST
A supporter of Narendra Modi holds a placard during a rally

Zakia had filed a complaint against 63 persons, including Modi, his ministerial colleagues, top police officers and BJP functionaries accusing them of a wider conspiracy in the riots, which left more than 1,000 people dead, mostly Muslims.

Jamuar said the complainant had the option to move the court of the district judge or the high court against the order.

The apex court had ordered an inquiry into Zakia's complaint by SIT headed by the Central Bureau of Investigation former Director R K Raghavan.

The SIT had submitted its report to the Supreme Court after investigations into the complaint. It had interrogated several people, including Modi, who was quizzed for more than nine hours in March 2010.

The Supreme Court, after going through the report, had asked amicus curiae Raju Ramchandran to independently verify the SIT investigations. Ramchandran had also submitted his report to the Supreme Court and, according to Zakia, it had sufficient grounds to put Modi and others on trial.

After going through both the reports, the Supreme Court had on September 12, 2011 directed the SIT to submit the final report along with the entire material collected during the investigation to the metropolitan court.

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Huge relief for Narendra Modi, gets clean chit in 2002 riots

Last updated on: December 26, 2013 18:36 IST
A protest against Modi

Meanwhile, reacting to Thursday's verdict, SIT chief R K Raghavan said he felt "vindicated" and "professionally satisfied". "In a sense I feel vindicated. Professionally I am extremely satisfied that our hard work has been upheld by the Ahmedabad court," he said.

"It was extremely hard work under tremendous adverse circumstances. I don't want to go into those adverse circumstances, you know what it is.... I will sound very petty if I refer to all that was been made to subvert our work. We did a thorough job. I am happy that the court has approved our work," he said.

Referring to accusations of bias, he said, "I am apolitical, I am a former CBI director. I have no views on politics. I looked at it from the narrow point of view of the SIT. A job was given by the Supreme Court and we did that," he said.

During the arguments that continued for five months almost on a daily basis, SIT counsel R S Jamuar had sought rejection of Zakia Jafri's petition as no direct or circumstantial evidence had been found during the probe, which could prima facie link Modi and others to the conspiracy behind the riots.

The SIT, during its submissions and replies to issues raised by Zakia, had contended that no evidential value could be attached to the testimonies given by three IPS officers R B Sreekumar, Sanjeev Bhatt and Rahul Sharma, whom she had cited as witnesses.

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Huge relief for Narendra Modi, gets clean chit in 2002 riots

Last updated on: December 26, 2013 18:36 IST
Zakia Jafri

SIT had said these officers held a grudge against the state government and accused them of conspiring to fabricate evidence to "malign" Modi.

Jamuar also said that SIT was never asked to probe the conspiracy angle of the post-Godhra riots by the Supreme Court, which constituted the team, and it would have been unconstitutional to do so.

However, Zakia's lawyers had argued that SIT totally ignored the evidence and material against those named in the complaint and even alleged that it was shielding the main culprits behind the riots.

"The SIT, instead of functioning like an independent investigating agency, has been doing the job of shielding the powerful accused," her advocate Mihir Desai had said.

Zakia's counsels also alleged that the SIT had "misled" the court and "deliberately distorted" apex court's orders.

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