The Supreme Court on Tuesday decided to constitute a special team headed by former Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director RK Raghavan to probe 10 crucial cases of 2002 communal carnage in Gujarat.
A bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat, P Sathasivam and Aftab Alam took the decision while hearing a bunch of petitions seeking either a probe into these cases by the CBI or transfer of their trial outside the state.
The bench, however, decided to pass the formal order, constituting a "special investigation team (SIT)" for the probe on Wednesday.
The five-member SIT will also include A Sathpathy, a former police officer of Uttar Pradesh cadre.
The cases which are to be handed over to the SIT relate to rape, murder and arson at various places including those at Godhra town, Gulbarg Society and Naroda Patiya in Ahmedabad, Best Bakery in Vadodara, Baranpura, Machipith, Tarsali, Raghovpura and Pandarwada.
The bench was hearing petitions by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), rights groups and individuals affected by the communal carnage that broke out following the burning of 59 Hindu activists in a coach of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra on Feb 27, 2002.
At least 1,000 people were killed in the violence that went on for weeks.
The bench had earlier sought the central government's response to the pleas.
In an affidavit filed in early February, the government had told the court it was willing to have the cases probed by the CBI and tried outside the state.
"The central government submits it would have no objection to the investigation of the cases by the CBI and transfer outside the state of Gujarat, if so desired by this court," the home ministry has told the apex court in its affidavit.
But ignoring the government's willingness to have these case transferred to the CBI for probe, the bench during the hearing suggested forming a special team, headed by Raghavan, to carry out further probe.
Both the Gujarat government counsel as well as those representing NHRC and individual petitioners welcomed the suggestion.