The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has requested the Supreme Court to lift the stay on the probe into the post-Ayodhya demolition riots in Hari Masjid, in which six people were killed in a police firing in a mosque 18 years ago.
Additional solicitor general and CBI counsel Mohan Jain argued against the state government’s appeal, challenging the Bombay High Court verdict transferring the probe to the premiere agency and assured the apex court to conclude the probe within the next six months.
Jain told a bench headed by Justice P. Sathasivam that after the high court judgment, the CBI had initiated the probe against the police officers allegedly involved in the police firing.
“The agency has examined 63 witnesses and endeavored to proceed with the investigation,” Jain told the court.
The high court had given the CBI six months to complete the probe. Since the agency failed to do so, it had moved an application in the high court seeking more time. An order could not be passed on the application as the state government had moved the Supreme Court against the HC judgment.
“Even as the agency is facing problem to investigate as witnesses are untraceable, the CBI would still conduct the probe with due diligence,” Jain said.
Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the complainant, welcomed the CBI’s “positive stand” in SC.
“Though initially, after the state government issued notification for the CBI to take over the investigation from the Special Task Force, the CBI was initially reluctant due to paucity of staff. After the high court order, the CBI swung into action and did a pretty good job by interrogating witnesses and registering the FIR in the case,” he said.
In December 2008, the high court directed the CBI to take over the investigation even though various state agencies such as the task force, CID and Crime Branch had registered cases and started prosecution against errant police officers.
Though the Maharashtra government challenged the verdict in the SC, it also gave consent to the CBI to probe various cases in wake of the Sri Krishna Committee Report on the Mumbai riots. The Supreme Court issued a stay order on the HC judgment as a constitution bench of the apex court was hearing a matter on whether HC could order CBI inquiry, even without state’s consent.