New Delhi: A civil court in Sabarkantha district of north Gujarat has ordered the removal of Narendra Modi’s name from a civil suit that demanded damages for the murder of three British nationals during the 2002 post-Godhra riots.
Prime Minister Modi was chief minister of Gujarat at the time and the suit pleaded that he was “constitutionally, statutorily and personally liable for being in complete command of the state machinery” on whose watch the Gujarat riots of 2002 raged for days.
In his order, the judge provided a summary of the allegations against Modi in the civil suit, in which he was arraigned as defendant No. 1, with the state of Gujarat listed as No.8;
“It is also alleged that defendant No.1 was elected on B.J.P. ticket and Sangh Pracharak of R.S.S. and continued the policy of R.S.S. through defendant No.8 State. The plaint also describes so many things in so many words alleging the same as the activities against Muslims.
“That, there was alert from I.B. of defendant No.8 for the movement of Karsevak of Ayodhya but there was complete failure of state administration. It is alleged that it was the acts and omissions of defendant No.1, which had resulted into genocidal killings of Muslims.
“There are also allegations against the alleged administrative policies of defendant No.1 and the State. It is asserted that defendant Nos.1 to 7 were in command hierarchy.
“It is further alleged that defendant No.1 with some Senior cabinet colleague arrived at Godhra on 27.02.2002 and against the advice of local administration took the decision of taking charred bodies of passengers of Sabarmati Express to Ahmedabad.
“That, defendant No.1 did not oppose ‘Bandh Alan’ given by V.H.P. and failed in his constitutional duties to maintain the Rule of Law, which carried out anti Muslim violence on or after 27.02.2002.
“That, defendant No.1 with other defendants by their acts of commission/omissions acted in furtherance of genocidal killings.
“That, defendant No.1 deliberately did not take any action against the newspapers fanning communal passions.
That, defendant No.1 is, thus, responsible for increasing violence against Muslim community.”
In his order, the judge, S.K. Gadhavi, said these allegations were “general” and “vague” and that there is “not a single averment showing [the] presence of [Modi] at the scene of offence … or his direct or indirect involvement in the alleged act or any specific role from which reasonable ground for malice or intentional acts or omissions can be found, entitling the plaintiff to claim any legal right or relief against defendant No.1 in his personal or official capacity in the suit.”
The case dates back to 2004 when British national Sameema Dawood and others had moved a special civil suit in the local civil court against Modi. The suit had also named then minister of state for home Gordhan Zadaphia and 12 others and had sought Rs 20 crore as damages for the killing of members of her family in the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Dawood’s relatives—Saeed Dawood, Shakeel Dawood and Mohammed Aswat were killed by a mob on a National Highway-8 on February 28, 2002. They were returning to their village Lajpur at Navsari in south Gujarat after visiting Agra and Jaipur when they were attacked, according to the FIR that was registered then.
This incident had taken place a day after 58 kar sevaks died in a fire in the Sabarmati Express as it left Godhra railway station on February 27, 2002.
In 2015, however, a special court acquitted the six men accused of killing Dawood’s relatives. The court had held that there was not enough evidence against them. This was one of the nine riot cases probed by the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team. During the proceedings, witnesses turned hostile.
An application to quash the civil suit was moved by advocate S.S. Shah on behalf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Shah had argued that the allegations made in the suit were already covered by the Nanavati Commission, which probed the case, and “there is not at all any specific allegations against defendant No. 1 and therefore defendant No. 1 is required to be struck off from the suit proceedings.”