Gujarat riots case: Special Investigation Team refuses to share report with petitioners

Ahmedabad: The Special Investigation Team (SIT) that submitted its final report on the 2002 Gulbarg Society massacre last week, today sought a month to place before the Gujarat trial court documents that it had based its report on. Riot victim and petitioner in the case, Zakia Jafri, has sought that all documents be made available, not just the final report. The SIT has been appointed by the Supreme Court to investigate post-Godhra riot cases in Gujarat in 2002.

In court today, the SIT said the documents were bulky and ran into thousands of pages and that it needed time to collate and submit these. The SIT also refused to give a copy of its report to social activist Teesta Seetalvad, who it said was not a complainant. And it said that it was for the court to decide on when to hand over a copy of the report to Ms Jafri, the complainant. The petitioners argue that after submission in court, the report is now a public document. The court said today that it would give judgment on Wednesday, February 15, on Ms Jafri's petitions seeking a copy of the report and also on whether the SIT had filed its latest report in compliance with a Supreme Court order which states that the investigating panel will have to submit in court not just the report, but all relevant documents, including investigation case papers.

Teesta Seetalvad's lawyer says by not submitting the additional documents, the SIT has committed contempt of court.

The SIT had submitted its report on Ms Jafri's allegation against Mr Modi and 62 others of complicity in the 2002 riots, to the trial court in sealed cover last week; today it said reports that it had given a clean chit in it to Mr Modi were just that - "media reports". The investigating panel said only the court would decide "whether the report gave a clean chit or not."

Zakia Jafri is the wife of former Congress MP Ehsaan Jafri, who was among 69 people allegedly burnt alive by a rioting mob on February 28, 2002 at the Gulbarg Housing Society in Ahmedabad where the Jafris lived. Ms Jafri alleges that when the mob attacked, her husband made frantic calls to the police and even to the Chief Minister's office for help but to no avail. For many years now Ms Jafri has taken her legal battle against Mr Modi and 62 other senior government functionaries from court to court.

She had moved the Supreme Court in 2008 after the Gujarat High Court dismissed her petition. The court asked the SIT to investigate her charges; the SIT submitted a report in the court, after questioning many people including Mr Modi, in which it reportedly said that there was no prosecutable evidence against the chief minister.

The Supreme Court had then asked amicus curiae Raju Ramchandran to independently assess the SIT report. Mr Ramcharndran visited Gujarat, interacted with several persons as well as witnesses, and then submitted his report to the Supreme Court in which he reportedly differed on some points with the SIT. Mr Ramachandran reportedly suggested that Mr Modi could be prosecuted.

Both the SIT and Mr Ramchandran also met suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, who in his affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, has said that Mr Modi, in a meeting held at his residence on February 27, 2002, asked the police to "allow Hindus to vent their anger" after 59 people, most of them Kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya, were killed in the Godhra train burning incident a few hours earlier.

The SIT in its report submitted to the Supreme Court had reportedly said that Mr Bhatt was not a reliable witness as his claim of being present in that meeting was allegedly refuted by nine other senior police and home department officials who attended the meeting. The court had refused to take Mr Bhatt's affidavit on record. In its latest report filed last week in the Ahmedabad trial court, the SIT, sources say, has again said that senior officers present at that meeting called by Mr Modi say Mr Bhatt was not present.

On September 12 last year, after going through the amicus curiae's report, the Supreme Court had refrained from passing any order in the case and asked the SIT to submit its final report in the Gujarat magisterial court. Mr Modi and his party the BJP had interpreted the court's order as a vindication of their stand that Zakia Jafri's allegations have no merit. Mr Modi had tweeted, "God is great." Yesterday, as he ended his sadhbhavna yatra or goodwill journey across his state, Mr Modi said he expected "There will be a storm in the form of criticism in the next 24 hours, but the anti-Gujarat forces will not be successful in doing any harm."

The SIT took almost five months after the Supreme Court order to file its report on Wednesday last week. As word spread that the SIT had reportedly given Mr Modi a clean chit, the BJP said it was time to close the case; Mr Modi quoted Swami Vivekanand to tweet "What work you do expect from the men of little hearts? Nothing in the world...!"

Zakia Jafri said she would fight on and filed her petition seeking to know the contents of the SIT report and to know whether the SIT has filed its latest report in compliance with a Supreme Court order.

The Supreme Court had asked the magisterial court to hear the petitioners before a closure summary in the case, even if the report was in favour of Mr Modi and the others. The petitioners will have the right to challenge the decision of the local court on the report in the High Court and then Supreme Court.

(With inputs from PTI)