Gujarat Riots: Court Orders Removal of PM Modi's Name From Civil Suit Seeking Damages

British national Sameema Dawood sought damages from Modi for three family members killed in the 2002 anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat, on the grounds that as CM, Modi was in "complete command" of the state machinery.

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.”

Also read: Delhi Riots: Is the Centre Importing the ‘Gujarat Model’ to Subvert Prosecution?

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.”