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HC order another blow to Nanavati

A day after the Gujarat HC lifted the terror tag on the 2002 Godhra train burning case, a hugely embarrassed Narendra Modi Govt fumbled for words while trying to defend the findings of the Nanavati commission to probe, reports Nagendar Sharma.

delhi Updated: Feb 14, 2009 14:27 IST
Nagendar Sharma

A day after the Gujarat High Court lifted the terror tag on the 2002 Godhra train burning episode, a hugely embarrassed Narendra Modi government on Friday fumbled for words while trying to defend the findings of the state-appointed Justice Nanavati commission to probe the incident.

The Modi government suffered a double blow on Thursday. First, the high court ruled that the Sabarmati Express fire at Godhra, which left 59 Hindu pilgrims dead and triggered statewide anti-Muslim riots, was not “an act of terror”.

Second, the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT), which is re-investigating 10 major riot cases, submitted its status report to the apex court.

The rejection of terror charges on the 80 accused languishing in Ahmedabad’s Sabarmati jail has pushed the state government on the back-foot, besides being rattled by the investigation being carried out by the SIT.

The high court judgement came as a firm rejection of the stand taken by the Modi government during the last seven years that the Godhra incident was a result of a “pre-planned conspiracy”. The Nanavati commission also endorsed this view in its interim report in September last year.

The commission also cleared the Modi government of any wrongdoing in the post-Godhra riots. Its findings were widely criticised and several top jurists demanded that the commission be scrapped.

Justice Nanavati had been accused of being close to the Modi government and of allegedly taking “some favours.” He strongly denied the allegations and said the commission was “yet to submit its final report. The interim report only dealt about the Godhra incident and the complete report on the riots is yet to be finalised.”

But the high court judgement, completely negating the commission’s findings, said, “The miscreants did a criminal act – yes, but an act of the nature defined under the POTA — ‘no’ is an opinion of a High-Powered Review Committee.

None of the consequences, as indicated in the POTA prima facie coming out to hold that an act of terror of disturbing the unity of the communities is made out.”

Although no minister or senior government official was willing to comment on the issue, a senior official, not authorised to speak to the media, said, “The petition was filed by a family member of the victim who died in the Sabarmati Express fire. The government was not a party. The response on how and where the accused will now be tried will be decided soon.”