The Supreme Court on Monday deferred till November 26 hearing on the plea of Zakia Jafri challenging the clean chit given by the Special Investigating Team (SIT) to Narendra Modi, who was then Gujarat Chief Minister, in connection with the 2002 post-Godhra riots.
A bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar said, “The matter will take some time for hearing. The plea will be heard on November 26”.
The SIT objected to the petition stating that this matter had already been looked into by it and need to be given a quietus. It also objected to activist Teesta Setalvad, secretary of NGO – Citizen for Justice and Peace- joining the petition as one of the petitioners beside Jafri.
At the outset, senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi appearing for SIT said Zakia’s plea was not maintainable and social activist Teesta Seetalvad cannot be the second petitioner in the case.
The bench said it will look into the application before hearing the matter on making Seetalvad as the second petitioner in Jafri’s plea.
On February 8, 2012, the SIT filed a closure report, giving the clean chit to Modi and 63 others, including senior government officials, saying there was “no prosecutable evidence” against them.
Ehsan Jafri was among 68 people who were killed at the Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad when a mob attacked it on February 28, 2002, a day after the S-6 Coach of the Sabarmati Express returning from Ayodhya at Godhra was burned, triggering the riots in Gujarat.
Zakia, the wife of Ehsan Jafri, an ex-MP who was killed in one of the worst incidents during the riots, has challenged the Gujarat High Court’s October 5, 2017 order rejecting her plea against the SIT’s decision.
“The present Special Leave Petition is filed before this Court against the final judgement and order dated October 5, 2017 passed by the High Court of Gujarat…which erroneously upheld the order of the magistrate accepting the closure report filed by the Special Investigative Agency appointed by this Court concerning the violence in Gujarat in 2002,” said the plea of Zakia filed through advocate Aparna Bhat on November 13.
The plea further said the high court “failed to appreciate” the Petitioner’s complaint which was independent of the Gulberg Case registered at Meghaninagar Police Station.
Zakia sought an interim order to the SIT to carry out further investigation with regard to her complaint and the evidence provided by her before the magistrate through the protest petition.
“The allegations in the case were against various bureaucrats, police officers and political leaders. The issues brought forth reflected conspiracy, abetment and hate speech by the accused, which culminated in the violence in Gujarat,” the plea alleged.
It said that the high court order be set aside as “it failed to appreciate that the then chief minister and other prominent members of the political right wing made inflammatory speeches, the home department turned a blind eye towards various SIB reports for prosecuting certain VHP office bearers and publishing houses for propagating an incendiary rhetoric which would amount to an offence under IPC”.
“Whether the High Court failed to appreciate that senior police officers and members of bureaucracy were not reprimanded but rewarded for gross dereliction of duty and collaborating with the illegal plans of the CM/BJP during 2002 riots and afterwards?,” the plea charged.
The high court in its October 5, 2017, order had said that the SIT probe was monitored by the Supreme Court but had partly allowed Zakia’s petition as far as its demand of a further investigation was concerned.
It had said that 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.
Setalvad is also a co-petitioner in the appeal seeking reversal of the Gujarat high court order.