In what may spell trouble for Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and some top state officials, a confidential report by a Supreme Court-appointed lawyer has found no “clinching evidence” to dispute the presence of suspended Gujarat Police officer Sanjiv Bhatt at a meeting called by Modi on the night of February 27, 2002.
The report has recently been submitted to the Special Investigation Team by Supreme Court-appointed amicus curiae (friend of the court) Raju Ramachandran, in a Gujarat riots case.Bhatt had in an affidavit in the Supreme Court in April stated that he was present at the meeting that night and witnessed Modi telling the police to be indifferent to rioters attacking Muslims during the mayhem that followed the Godhra train burning carnage.
The state government had rejected Bhatt’s statement, saying he was not present at Modi’s residence on that occasion. Ramachandran is understood to have stated in his report that the fate of the case against all those, including Modi, can be decided only after all witnesses, including Bhatt, are cross-examined.
Zakia is the widow of former Congress MP Ehsaan Jafri, who was burnt alive with 68 others at the Gulberg Housing Society in Ahmedabad a day after the meeting at Modi’s residence.
Ramchandran’s report says Bhatt and all other officers present at the controversial meeting should be cross-examined by the trial court.
If the court accepts Bhatt’s version of what Modi said at the meeting, all those named in Zakia Jafri’s complaint, including the CM, may have to face trial for criminal offences.
Bhatt was a senior officer with the state police’s intelligence wing and as the intelligence chief did not attend the meeting, his statement draws credibility from the fact that such an important meeting could not have taken place without keeping this wing out, the report is learnt to have observed.
Ramachandran is also learnt to have rejected the state government’s argument that Bhatt has levelled wild allegations against Modi and other senior officials because he is a disgruntled officer.
On why Bhatt chose to speak out nine years after the riots, the amicus curiae is understood to have accepted his view that being a serving officer, he could have spoken out either before a commission or an inquiry.
Ramachandran declined to comment on his findings. “I neither confirm nor deny your information,” he told HT. Gujarat government spokesperson Jai Narayan Vyas too refused to comment on the findings.