New Delhi: Has the legal process in the Gujarat riot cases been compromised?
Senior police officer Sanjiv R Bhatt has told the Supreme Court that the Gujarat government, which is meant to prosecute those accused of the communal riots of 2002, has actually been leaking information for use in their defence.
Mr Bhatt has also accused Chief Minister Narendra Modi of asking policemen to ignore calls for help during the riots, which killed 1200 people.
In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, Mr Bhatt has included emails that allegedly show how the state government was sharing information with the lawyers of some of those accused in the riots.
A Special Investigation Team (SIT) was appointed a few years ago by the Supreme Court to investigate the riots.
Mr Bhatt says he has emails that show classified parts of the SIT were being emailed to Tushar Mehta, who is the Additional Advocate General of Gujarat. According to the policeman, Mr Mehta, who is meant to be handling the prosecution in different cases related to the riots, then forwarded emails containing the SIT excerpts to Gurumurthy Swaminathan, who is an RSS ideologue. Mr Gurumurthy then forwarded the information to lawyer Ram Jethmalani and his son, Mahesh, who represents former state Home Minister Amit Shah.
Along with other ministers and Mr Modi, Mr Shah is being investigated for whether they misused government machinery during the riots. Mr Mehta also shared the information, according to Mr Bhatt's affidavit, with lawyers for others accused in the riots.
Mr Mehta and Mr Bhatt were close friends. The lawyer allegedly gave the policeman access to his mail because they were planning family vacations together.
On Friday evening, Mahesh Jethmalani said, "I have not appeared in the trial court in any Gujarat riots case for any accused. I have been representing an accused in the Supreme Court and I have received no information from either Mr Gurumurthy or Mr Tushar Mehta that has helped my case in the Supreme Court."
Mr Gurumurthy also said he "has not received the SIT report." Mr Bhatt has made headlines in the last few months after he told the Supreme Court that he attended a meeting on February 27, 2002 which was chaired by Chief Minister Narendra Modi. 59 people had been killed by now in a train near Godhra; most of them were kar-sevaks on their way back from Ayodhya. Communal tension was surging through the state. Mr Bhatt was posted with the State Intelligence Bureau at the time. He says the Chief Minister told the policemen to remain indifferent to calls of help from those being attacked by rioters. Mr Bhatt recalls Mr Modi saying that it was imperative for Hindus to be allowed to 'vent out their anger.'
Mr Modi and other policemen who attended the meeting have said Mr Bhatt was not present.
Mr Bhatt claims that he shared this information with the SIT set up by the Supreme Court to investigate the riots. The SIT, he says, showed little interest on following up on his allegations.
A few months ago, a criminal case was filed against Mr Bhatt by another police officer who says Mr Bhatt forced him to testify that Mr Bhatt attended Mr Modi's meeting with policemen in February 2002. Mr Bhatt wants his case to be transferred out of Gujarat.
Slamming the Modi government over Mr Bhatt's claims in his affidavit, state Congress president Arjun Modhvadiya said today, "That there was complicity of the Narendra Modi government machinery in riots is well known and well documented. Its officials were in nexus with the accused in the riots. But with the Supreme Court-appointed SIT coming under a cloud, it's a serious matter. These mails have shown that they were also part of the nexus. Since it's an SIT appointed by the Supreme Court, I am hopeful that the apex court will look into it."
Gujarat government spokesperson Jaynarayan Vyas, however, refused to comment on the issue. "We won't comment on this as the matter is sub judice," he said.