The Gujarat High Court on Friday declared as "illegal" the setting up of the U.C. Banerjee Committee to probe into the Godhra train carnage.
Justice B.H. Vaghela pronounced the order on a petition filed by Neelkanth Bhatia, a survivor of the carnage. He had challenged the setting up of the Banerjee Committee at a time when the Justice Nanawati Shah Commission was already probing the matter.
The committee, headed by former Supreme Court judge U.C. Banerjee, was set up by the Union cabinet in September 2004 to probe the incident in which 58 karsevaks were killed in a fire in S6 coach of Sabarmati Express in February 2002.
The committee was set up by the Railway Ministry to probe into the cause of fire. In its interim report, it attributed the fire to an accident or short circuit and said it was not caused by a mob.
Following the court verdict, the BJP said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should dismiss Railway Minister Lalu Yadav if he did not resign from the cabinet. Party general secretary Arun Jaitley said the BJP had always held the setting up of an alternative panel as “unconstitutional”. The Congress, however, said the verdict was neither a slap on the face of the UPA government nor did it warrant the resignation of Yadav.
Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said the party felt there would be "sufficient legal grounds" to challenge the high court order and so it would not be proper to treat the judicial observations with certain finality.