This Article is From Feb 17, 2012

2002 Gujarat riots: Former judge says there's audio tape with evidence against Modi

Ahmedabad: A retired judge who investigated the Gujarat riots says there's evidence that must be considered against Narendra Modi. Justice H Suresh was a part of a people's fact-finding committee that travelled to Gujarat in may 2002, just months after communal violence devastated the state. 1200 people were killed, most of them Muslims.

Justice Suresh says that during his trip to Gujarat, he met Haren Pandya, who was then a minister in Mr Modi's government. Mr  Pandya allegedly said that the chief minister had called a meeting in February, hours after a train was set on fire at the Godhra station. Nearly 60 karseveaks who were on their way back from Ayodhya died. Mr Pandya allegedly told the judge  that at his meeting, Mr Modi instructed senior police officers to let Hindus exact their revenge.

Justice Suresh says that Mr Pandya' conversation with him and retired Supreme Court judge PB Sawant was recorded on an audio tape. But Mr Pandya pleaded with both judges to not attribute this information to him.

"He said he will come and meet us provided its kept confidential and his name should not be disclosed ...we agreed on that...only some of us Justice Sawant, myself and one or two others were there ..and then we heard him, recorded his statement but we kept it very confidential," Justice Suresh told NDTV.

Mr Pandya was shot dead in 2003 while on his morning walk. He had fallen out with Mr Modi by then and was no longer a minister.

Justice Suresh says that he shared what Mr Pandya told him in 2009  with a Special Investigating Team (SIT) that was appointed by the Supreme Court to study allegations of Mr Modi's complicity in the riots. Last week, the SIT submitted its findings to a court in Gujarat. It has reportedly concluded that there is no prosecutable evidence against the Chief Minister.

The alleged testimony of Mr Pandya to the fact-finding committee matches what suspended police officer Sanjiv Bhatt has told the Supreme Court. Mr Bhatt claims that he attended the meeting where Mr Modi asked policemen to let rioters strike at will. Mr Bhatt was suspended last year for not reporting to duty and using an official car during his absence from work. He claims he is being punished for taking on Mr Modi. The SIT has reportedly said that Mr Bhatt's version of events is not reliable, because other policemen who were at the meeting say he was not present.