It's a huge relief to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. The Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) "…has found no evidence against any of the 62 accused named in the complaint of Zakia Jafri. The report has stated that no offence has been established against the accused," Ahmedabad metropolitan magistrate SM Bhatt said in court on Tuesday.
Jafri, wife of slain Congress leader Ehsan Jafri, had sought the criminal prosecution of Modi and over 50 others for their alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, which left more than 1,100 people dead.
The court will now have to decide whether to accept the report and close the case but for now, Modi, has got a clean chit from the SIT, which was entrusted the task of investigating nine Gujarat riot cases by the Supreme Court.
HT had reported on February 9 this year that the SIT had not found evidence to substantiate the allegation that Ehsan Jafri, former Congress parliamentarian killed in the massacre at Gulbarg society, had made phone calls to the chief minister's office for help when the housing complex was encircled by a frenzied mob on February 28, 2002, which killed 69 residents.
The court also ordered that Zakia Jafri be given copies of all the related documents and reports within 30 days.
"It is hereby ordered that as per the Supreme Court order, Zakia Jafri will be given copies of the investigation report, statements of witnesses and all related documents within 30 days of this order."
Reacting to the court's observations, leading activist Teesta Setalvad, a co-petitioner of Zakia Jafri, said a long legal battle lay ahead.
"We will fight the case step by step. It's just the SIT head Mr Raghavan who has sought closure of the case," she said.
Zakia Jafri, now settled in Surat, added: "I am saddened with this but I am confident of getting justice."
RK Raghavan, who headed the SIT, said the report is based on the evidence collected by the probe body.
"I will not go into details of the report because the complainant is yet to get a copy of it but I will say that we have gone by the evidence gathered during the probe. Remember, we were appointed by the highest court of the land and are accountable to it only," he said.
Amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran, whose report reportedly recommended prosecution of the accused, refused comment on what his findings were.
"You'll know if it differed from SIT when it comes out... The complainant (Zakia) has the right to file a protest petition in court not to accept the closure report. The court will then consider that petition," he told a television channel.
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