In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, Gujarat police officer Sanjiv Bhatt has indicated that N Ram, editor-in-chief of the daily The Hindu, had offered to brief an unidentified person on matters related to the 2002 Gulberg Society massacre, on a request from Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ideologue S Gurumurthy.
Sixty-nine people including former Congress MP Ehsan Jaffri were killed in Gulberg Society during the Gujarat riots.
A supplementary affidavit filed on July 26 by Bhatt, a 1988 batch IPS officer, is based on a series of email exchanges between Tushar Mehta, Gujarat’s additional advocate general, Gurumurthy, former Gujarat home minister Amit Shah and officials in the chief minister’s office.
The affidavit says the exchanges illustrate how the criminal justice in the state has been vitiated as a law officer of the state is seen helping defend the accused in riots cases.
Earlier this year, Bhatt had filed an affidavit in the SC alleging that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi had asked the police to go slow during the riots. Bhatt had also alleged that a special investigation team (SIT) constituted by the SC under former CBI chief RK Raghavan to re-investigate several riot cases had ignored evidence of state complicity.
The SC appointed an amicus curiae – ‘friend of the court’— to review whether the SIT had acted with any bias.
In an email, attached as an annexure in Bhatt's supplementary affidavit, Gurumurthy writes to Ram (at the mail ids email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org) on February 17, 2010: “Dear Ram, This refers to our telephonic talk after Cho (Cho Ramaswamy, editor of Tamil magazine Thuglak) spoke to you and me. Here is the note I would like you to go through so that you understand before you talk to the person.”
In the two-page note attached to the mail, Gurumurthy praised Raghavan’s confidential reports that had already been submitted to the SC and trashed Zakia Jaffri, widow of Ehsan Jaffri for trying to get a case registered against Modi and 62 others including top government officials. The SC had referred Jaffri’s case to the SIT for investigations.
Ram told HT he did not recall any such exchange with Gurumurthy. After explaining the email and the attached note on the functioning of the SIT, HT asked Ram whether he could recall who was the unnamed person being referred to in the mail. Ram said: “I don’t remember anything you are saying. I never talked to Cho or anybody regarding the Gujarat riots.”
Asked whether he recalled any conversation with Raghavan on matters relating to his investigations, Ram said: “No, never. He is a close family friend and writes for our publications, but we never discussed anything about the Gujarat riots.”
Gurumurthy initially agreed to respond to the allegations. Later he changed his mind and shot back: “Who are you to question me. I don’t want to respond to anything. You are nobody to question me.”