The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the alleged role of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and his administration in aiding and abetting the 2002 riots.
This is the first time that Modi, being projected as the BJP’s future prime ministerial candidate, has come under the scanner for one of the worst riots in recent years, though fingers have been repeatedly pointed at him, his cabinet colleagues and top state officials for their alleged complicity.
The Supreme Court order came less than 72 hours before voting begins for the 26 Lok Sabha seats of Gujarat. It was issued on a petition filed by Jakia Nasim Ahesan, wife of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, who was killed by a mob on February 28, 2002 in Gulbarg Society in the heart of Ahmedabad.
Accusing Modi of “masterminding” the riots, Jakia has slammed police investigation in various riots cases as “a charade calculated to shield and exculpate” the chief minister, his certain cabinet colleagues, high-ranking police officials and bureaucrats.
“The SIT will inquire into the complaint made by the petitioner (Jakia) and file its report within three months,” said a bench comprising justices Arijit Pasayat and A.K. Ganguly.
The SIT, set up on the orders of the Supreme Court in March 2008 and headed by former CBI director R.K. Raghavan, is already probing about a dozen major post-Godhra riots cases.
In March, the Gujarat government had put the riots toll at 1,180. According to the petition, 18,000 houses were burnt down and 1.68 lakh people became refugees. More than 270 places of worship were damaged, and property and businesses worth Rs 4,000 crore were destroyed.
Jakia had named Modi and 62 others in her June 2006 complaint to the state police chief, who refused to register any case. Following the refusal, she approached the Gujarat High Court in November 2007.
The high court had asked her to approach a magistrate’s court for registering an FIR.
In her complaint, Jakia alleged her husband and 37 others were killed by rioters as a result of the police’s criminal inaction. She wanted the court to direct the police to book Modi and others for criminal conspiracy, murder and other charges.
The complaint levelled specific and damning allegations against Modi, 11 of his cabinet ministers, three sitting MLAs and 38 high-ranking police officers and bureaucrats (including IPS and IAS officers) including the director general of police and Gujarat chief secretary.
Jakia, who wanted to be included as a witness in the Gulbarg Society massacre case, alleged that none of the 63 people named as accused in her complaint had been booked for their acts of omission and commission in the past seven years.
Jakia said there was a “deliberate” failure on the part of the state government to protect the life and property of citizens through a “well executed and sinister criminal conspiracy”.