Almost nine years after over 1,000 were killed in communal violence in Gujarat, the Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the decks for pronouncement of judgments in riots cases, including in the Godhra train fire case.
A special bench, however, said its stay order would continue to operate in the Gulberg Society case, in connection with which Chief Minister Narendra Modi was questioned by the SC-appointed Special Investigating Team (SIT).
Former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri was among those killed in Gulberg Society and his wife Zakia is one of the witnesses. The court gave SIT 15 days to submit its report on this case.
The SC had on May 6 stayed pronouncement of verdicts in all Gujarat riots cases after the victims filed an application seeking reconstitution of the SIT, questioning the impartiality of one of its members.
But on Tuesday, the court rejected this plea, saying: “It is not possible at this stage. Many of them (accused) are in the jail. It will delay the whole process. The investigation is being done by somebody else.”
Trial courts are now free to pronounce verdicts in all cases except Gulberg Society. Trial in two cases has concluded while the others are nearing completion, the court was told.
Meanwhile, the court also issued a notice to the state government on the victims’ plea seeking transfer of B.U. Joshi, the judge hearing the Gulberg Society case.
Kamini Jaiswal, counsel for the victims, alleged the judge was biased and had misbehaved with witnesses. The other development of the day was that amicus curiae (court’s friend) Prashant Bhushan recused himself from the case following the Gujarat government’s objection.
“Thousands whose kin were murdered will finally get justice after eight years, once the courts pass their judgments,” said a riot victim.
The Gujarat government chose to keep mum. “It’s a court order, so no comments,” said its spokesperson Jaynarayan Vyas.
But Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela said: “There is a ray of hope for justice for those who bore the brunt of the riots because the Supreme Court is monitoring the trials. But there is a concern for witnesses as the Modi government will try to threaten and lure them to retract their statements.”
SIT chief and former CBI director R.K. Raghavan told the court most of the accused had been questioned but some witnesses were yet to be examined. Eight and a half year wait ends