Clean chit to Narendra Modi in Zakiya Jafri case: Sources; petitioners file fresh plea

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Ahmedabad:  The Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up by the Supreme Court says it has found no "prosecutable evidence" of Narendra Modi's alleged complicity in the 2002 communal riots, sources say. The SIT submitted its final report on the complaint of riot victim Zakiya Jafri to a Gujarat magistrate's court in sealed cover yesterday.

Mr Modi tweeted today, "The history of the world is the history of a few men who had faith in themselves..." Only yesterday, the Gujarat High Court had slammed his government for failing to protect 500 religious buildings during the same riots.  

The SIT, sources say, has said in its report that it finds no reason to prosecute Mr Modi or any of the 62 other senior politicians and cops accused by Ms Jafri of ensuring that assistance was not provided to her husband, former Congress MP Ehsaan Jafri, and 68 others who were attacked and killed by a rioting mob at Ahmedabad's Gulbarg Housing Society, where the Jafris lived, in February 2002. Mr Jafri was allegedly burnt alive by rioters when he stepped out to plead for the lives of women and children to be spared. Ms Jafri says her husband had made desperate calls to the police and Mr Modi's office for help, but to no avail.

Ms Jafri has been fighting a legal battle for many years now. She will fight on, she says. Today she asked for a copy of the SIT report and filed a fresh application this morning asking if the report is "comprehensive, final, conclusive and in compliance with Supreme Court guidelines." The trial court will hear Ms Jafri's plea at 3 pm on Monday, February 13.

The court will now decide whether to accept the SIT report after it goes through the several thousand pages and evaluates it. It will then conclude whether further investigations are needed in the case.

Mr Modi's colleague and senior BJP leader suggests the case should now be closed. And party president Nitin Gadkari said today, "Delhi is conspiring against Gujarat. The CBI is misused and regular attempts are made to tarnish the image of the Gujarat government. This is done with politics in mind; the centre should now stop the mischief against the state government."

Sources say the latest SIT report also notes that no substantial evidence has been found to support suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's allegation that Chief Minister Modi had, at a meeting on February 28, 2002, ordered that rioters be given a free hand. The SIT, say sources, states in its report that seven officials present at that meeting had denied that Mr Bhatt was even there. The meeting was called to discuss law and order after the Godhra train burning incident that sparked the Gujarat riots.

Last year, the Supreme Court had refused to take a position on the merits of Zakiya Jafri's case and had, instead, directed the SIT to submit a final report to a Gujarat trial court after studying the charges against Mr Modi and the evidence in the case. The Supreme Court's order was immediately hailed by the Chief Minister, as also by the BJP, as a vindication of sorts. Mr Modi, in fact, had tweeted "God is Great" soon after the order.

Zakiya Jafri's family, however, chose to interpret the Supreme Court order quite differently and now says that the reported SIT clean chit for the Chief Minister is not conclusive. Ms Jafri's son, Tanvir Jafri, said today, "The Supreme Court's directive that they will conduct an enquiry in itself is a big victory... if that wasn't there we wouldn't have reached this stage today... a closure report is given by an investigation officer, not the court... It's the investigation officer who is of the opinion that there shouldn't be any case on Chief Minister or his colleague... if the investigation officer himself was a judge then why would we need to go to a judge or magistrate."

Zakiya Jafri had in 2006 written to the Gujarat Director General of Police, AK Bhargava, asking that a case be registered against Chief Minister Modi, alleging that he was behind a larger conspiracy that led to the post-Godhra riots. When she did not get a reply, she approached the Gujarat High Court, which rejected her plea. This was in 2007. In 2008, she moved the Supreme Court, which set up the SIT in 2009 and directed it to look into Ms Jafri's complaint. The SIT had also questioned Mr Modi twice and had submitted a report in 2010 stating that it found no "prosecutable evidence" against Mr Modi.

The Supreme Court had then directed an amicus curiae, Raju Ramchandran, to file a separate report in the Jafri case. Mr Ramchandran reportedly differed on various points with the SIT's findings. The Supreme Court then referred the Zakiya Jafri petition to the Gujarat trial court in September 2011.  

The Congress says yesterday's High Court indictment of Modi is more pertinent than the SIT's reported clean chit. "So many lapses which the court spoke about, it is enough for the government in office to hang its head in shame," said Union Minister Ambika Soni. Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said, "If the BJP's claims on the report are true, it raises questions on the BJP and SIT."

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