National Human Rights Commission Chairman Justice S Rajendra Babu has dismissed allegations of possible political misuse of the CBI in the Gujarat riots case and asserted that the panel was duty-bound to investigate charges leveled against state functionaries.
In an exclusive chat with the Hindustan Times on Saturday, SR Babu emphasised the importance of getting the case investigated by an impartial agency like the CBI.
“In a situation like this, when allegations have been made against the highest functionaries of the state, it would be appropriate that the inquiry should be impartial and from an outside agency… and the best agency would be the CBI,” he said.
“They (CBI) are not answerable to the Central government. So far as this inquiry is concerned, they would be answerable to the NHRC only. If there is interference by any authority… if they tell us, we will put an end to it. There should be no difficulty so far as impartiality of the inquiry is concerned.”
On the timing of the Commission’s order that coincides with Assembly elections in Gujarat, he said: “We are not political… A situation has arisen and irrespective of the fact whether election takes place or not, when a matter has been brought to our notice, we have a duty to act. We can’t sleep over the matter.”
He also denied claims that the panel has a political agenda. “We are three judges and one who was an Ambassador. There is another member who was a director of the CBI. None of us has any political background. There is no political axe to grind. We are only interested in assembling facts.”
Rajendra Babu, who has asked Gujarat to give its consent by November 19 for a CBI probe into the authenticity of the tapes and the allegations leveled, said: “In a pending case when new material comes up, we want to assure ourselves of the veracity of the same. It is in these circumstances that we have ordered the Gujarat government to give its consent for a CBI probe.”
Asked if it was proper to direct the state to give its consent for CBI probe even before the Supreme Court decided the issue, he said the apex court was seized of only seven cases while the NHRC was dealing with it on a broader canvass.
He recalled how in the Bilkis Bano case the Supreme Court had ordered a CBI probe and transfer of the case to Mumbai and the Gujarat government readily agreed to it. There was no opposition to it, said Rajendra Babu, who was a party to the order as a judge.
He added that displacement of riot-affected people within the state itself was a serious human rights issue and the Commission had been continuously monitoring the progress of the relief and rehabilitation measures taken by the Gujarat government headed by Narendra Modip.