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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday heard Kapil Sibal, appearing for Zakia Jafri, said that the Special Investigation Team (SIT) investigating the Gulberg society massacre during the 2002 Gujarat riots did not question the accused, seize their phones and ignored evidence showing conspiracy and hate speech, and discarded sting reports which were used by in the Naroda Patya case.
Sibal was making these arguments in the plea filed by Zakia, the widow of Congress leader Ehsan Jafri who was killed in the Gulberg society massacre, challenging the SIT’s clean chit to 64 persons, including Narendra Modi who was the then Gujarat chief minister. The other petitioner in the case is Citizens for Justice and Peace, a human rights group led by activist Teesta Setalvad.
According to The Hindu, Sibal said the investigative body merely accepted the statements given by the “accused”.
“They did not record statements of witnesses. No phones were seized from the accused. No call record details were analysed. They never arrested anybody, never checked why documents were destroyed and why the police stood by doing nothing… They just accepted the statements of the accused… There should be an investigation,” Sibal said.
Sibal began his arguments by stating that he would demonstrate, largely through official documents, that the SIT did not conduct any investigation, according to LiveLaw.
“The question is, has the SIT followed the procedure established by the law in dealing with the evidence which was before the SIT and which they completely disregarded and never investigated?” Sibal told the bench of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and C.T. Ravikumar.
Earlier, the senior advocate said that communal violence is like “a lava erupting from a volcano which scars the ground it touches”.
“Communal violence is like lava erupting from a volcano and it’s an institutionalised problem. Whenever the lava touches a ground on earth it scars it and it becomes a fertile ground for future revenge,” he said, adding, “I lost my maternal parents to it in Pakistan. I am a victim of the same.”
The senior advocate said he is “not accusing A or B” but a message must be sent to the world that this is “unacceptable” and “cannot be tolerated”.
He said this is a “historic matter” because the choice is between ensuring that rule of law will prevail or letting people run amok.
“Deliberate loopholes were left in the investigation and there were no sincere attempts to nab the culprits. No investigator with a sense of justice will discard this evidence. No judge with a conscience will discard this evidence,” Sibal submitted towards the end of his arguments for the day, according to LiveLaw.
Ehsan Jafri, a former MP, was among the 68 people killed in the violence, a day after the S-6 Coach of the Sabarmati Express was burnt at Godhra killing 59 people.
On October 26, the apex court had said it would like to peruse the closure report of the SIT giving the clean chit to 64 persons and the justification given by the magisterial court while accepting it.
Sibal had earlier argued that Jafri’s complaint was that there was a larger conspiracy where there was bureaucratic inaction, police complicity, hate speeches and unleashing of violence”.
On February 8, 2012, the SIT had filed a closure report giving a clean chit to Modi, now the prime minister, and 63 others, including senior government officials, saying there was “no prosecutable evidence” against them.
Zakia Jafri had filed a petition in the apex court in 2018 challenging the Gujarat high court’s October 5, 2017 order rejecting her plea against the decision of the SIT.
The plea also maintained that after the SIT gave a clean chit in its closure report before a trial judge, Zakia Jafri filed a protest petition which was dismissed by the magistrate without considering “substantiated merits”.
It also said the high court “failed to appreciate” the petitioner’s complaint which was independent of the Gulberg Society case registered at a Police Station in Ahmedabad.
The high court in its October 2017 order had said the SIT probe was monitored by the Supreme Court. However, it partly allowed Zakia Jafri’s petition as far as its demand for a further investigation was concerned.
It had said the petitioner can approach an appropriate forum, including the magistrate’s court, a division bench of the high court, or the Supreme Court seeking further investigation.
‘Thoroughly examined’, says SIT
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the SIT, said that Jafri’s complaint alleging was thoroughly examined, after which the team came to the conclusion that there was no material to take it forward. Zakia Jafri’s complaint was examined “threadbare” and statements were recorded, he said.
“Her complaint was taken up for examination and statements were recorded. Her complaint was thoroughly investigated. SIT came to a conclusion that apart from the charge sheets already filed, there was no material to take forward her complaint of 2006,” Rohatgi told the bench.
He further stated that the top court had said in 2011 that all aspects of her complaint should be examined by the SIT.
Rohatgi said there were nine major FIRs in the riots cases and the SIT came in 2008-2009 and took up these cases and subsequently, filed chargesheets as well as supplementary charge sheets.
Sibal said Zakia Jafri had made a complaint in 2006 which talked about a larger conspiracy and the SIT had not done any investigation on the issues raised by her.
The bench observed that the 2011 judgment of the top court takes note of Zakia Jafri’s complaint but there was no direction to register it as a separate case or a separate FIR.
According to The Hindu, Sibal said though the complaint was never registered as an FIR, it was “treated” as one. “Besides, there were no proceedings going on in the magistrate court at the time as the Gulberg case trial was going on in a sessions court,” he said.
Rohatgi told the bench that when the SIT was examining the complaint, it was not an FIR and the team recorded statements of several people in the matter.
“The investigation was done thoroughly as per the Supreme Court order. There was no order to register an FIR,” he said.
Sibal, who referred to the alleged inaction by the concerned authorities during the violence, said one cannot allow communal tension to reach such a stage where violence occurs and innocent people are attacked.
(With PTI inputs)