Three years after the National Human Rights Commission moved the Supreme Court seeking transfer of certain post-Godhra riot cases outside Gujarat, the PILs are still hanging fire even as the trial in the cases sought to be transferred remained stayed.
Interestingly, the apex court is yet to decide the preliminary issue of maintainability of the PILs, which came as SOS from the NHRC and some NGOs on behalf the victims.
A Bench of Justice KG Balakrishnan, Justice LS Panta and Justice DK Jain on Wednesday fixed February 20-22, 2007 to hear the matter when it will first decide the issue of maintainability of the PIL in a pending criminal case.
The Gujarat Government and the accused have maintained that a third party had no right to approach the court by way of a PIL in a pending criminal trial.
Amicus Curiae Harish Salve said the court would have to decide some broader issues involved in the case.
He submitted that the court will have to decide the victims’ right to intervene in a criminal proceeding and the extent of protection witnesses could be provided.
Salve said the Bench would also have to determine the extent of intervention by the Supreme Court or High Court in issuing directions by-passing the Ciminal Procedure Code to the trial court in a pending criminal trial.
On the PILs filed by the NHRC and some NGOs, The Supreme Court had in November 2003 stayed trial in 10 cases mentioned by NHRC for CBI probe and transfer outside Gujarat. But only Best Bakery case was transferred to Mumbai in which 14 of the 21 accused acquitted by a Varodara court were held guilty of mass killing.
The cases sought to be reinvestigated include those of Godhra, Naroda Patia Masscre, Gulbarg Society mass killings where a Congress MP was among the victims, Sardarpur riots, Ode Killings and some other such incidents.
Earlier, Delhi Additional Sessions Judge ML Mehra, who was asked to examine voluminous records of Gujarat riot cases, submitted a 100-page report on August 29 to the apex court which was to decide NHRC’s plea for reinvestigation by CBI and transfer certain cases out of Gujarat.
Mehra was assigned the task of scrutinizing the recods of riot cases in July on the petition filed by NHRC, which alleged that out of the 2008 post Godhra riots cases, 1950 were closed by the state police despite there being sufficient evidence against the accused.