The Supreme Court on Friday lifted its stay on trial of 10 post-Godhra riot cases and ordered day-to-day hearing by six fast-track courts in Gujarat after rejecting a plea for shifting the trial outside the state.
A bench headed by Justice Arijit Pasayat said it was necessary to hold day-to-day trial considering the fact that seven years have passed (the riots took place in 2002).
The court took into consideration the report filed by Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by former CBI director R K Raghavan which probed the cases.
The court said the Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court will appoint expert lawyers in criminal trial as public prosecutors for the trial of cases.
The bench said it would be open for the chairman of the SIT to seek change of public prosecutors if any deficiency was found during the trial.
Further the chairman of SIT can make a request to the Advocate General of the state on the appointment of assistant public prosecutors to assist the public prosecutors, it said.
The SIT and its chairman will keep track of the trial and file quarterly report to the apex court.
The apex court also gave liberty to the SIT to recommend the cancellation of bail if it is considered necessary.
Reacting to the apex court's decision, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the decision to conduct the trials in Gujarat reaffirmed the court's confidence in the state.
On the other hand, the Congress, while expressing satisfaction with the way the Special Investigation Team (SIT) was handling the case, attacked Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, calling him an accused.
"Modi is an accused and he is out to help the culprits. It would be a tragedy for the country if he becomes the prime minister," said the party.
Speaking to NDTV, SIT chief RK Raghavan also expressed happiness over the decision of the Supreme Court.
"I am happy with the Supreme Court verdict. SIT will make sure that the trial is speeded up," he said.
Last week, the court had indicated that fast-track courts might be set up to try these cases, and that the trials could be monitored by its Special Investigation Team (SIT).
Among the 14 cases are - the burning of the Sabarmati Express in Godhra and the massacre at Naroda Patia, Sardarpura and Gulbarg Society.
In 2003, petitions were filed by National Human Rights Commission and other human rights activists, asking for a CBI probe into the cases and their transfer out of Gujarat.
Instead of ordering a CBI probe, the Supreme Court set up a Special Investigation Team, headed by former CBI chief R K Raghavan.
The team reinvestigated the 14 riot cases and submitted its final report to the court in April. The court had stayed the trial of all these cases pending the report of the SIT.
It must also be noted that on April 27, 2009, the apex court had ordered the SIT to probe the role of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in an alleged conspiracy to fan the violence in the 2002 Godhra riots.
So what happens now? The Supreme Court has effectively given the SIT much more power to decide the course of the riots cases.
- The Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court will appoint criminal lawyers as public prosecutors.
- The court has asked the SIT to ensure protection f the witnesses.
- The SIT chief can ask for a change in public prosecutors if they are found lacking.
- The court has asked the SIT to monitor the cases and file a quarterly report.
- The apex court also gave liberty to the SIT to recommend the cancellation of bail if it is considered necessary.
(With PTI inputs)