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Friday, Aug 16, 2019

Gujarat HC rejects Zakia Jafri’s plea against clean chit to Modi over 2002 riots

Jafri and activist Teesta Setalvad’s NGO had moved the petition against the clean chit given by the SIT to Modi and others regarding the allegations of a “larger criminal conspiracy” behind the riots

india Updated: Oct 05, 2017 22:58 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Zakia Jafri, the widow of former Congress leader Ehsan Jafri, who was killed in the Gulbarg massacre during 2002 riots in Gujarat.
Zakia Jafri, the widow of former Congress leader Ehsan Jafri, who was killed in the Gulbarg massacre during 2002 riots in Gujarat. (PTI file photo)

The Gujarat high court on Thursday upheld the clean chit given to then chief minister Narendra Modi and 58 others by the Special Investigation Team in the “larger conspiracy” charge for the 2002 statewide communal riots.

The petition filed by Zakia Jafri — the widow of Congress leader Ehsan Jafri who was one of the victims of the violence — and Tessta Setalvad’s Citizens for Justice and Peace had challenged the findings of the Supreme Court-appointed SIT and the ruling of a magistrate court that upheld its closure report of 2012.

Justice Sonia Gokani, however, kept the doors open for Jafri for a fresh investigation in the conspiracy charge asking her to approach the same magisterial court or higher forums.

The HC observed that the lower court’s decision not to order a fresh investigation was “self-limited” and that it was wrong to conclude that the magisterial court did not have powers to order a fresh probe.

“The HC today rejected the charge that there was criminal conspiracy in the 2002 riots as claimed by Jafri. Besides, it has also upheld the closure report the SIT that gave clean chit to Modi and others,” SIT’s counsel RC Kodekar told HT.

Jafri’s lawyer maintained that their criminal review petition has been partially accepted. “Though the lower court’s verdict has been upheld, the HC has maintained that Jafri may move the lower court, the Supreme Court or the division bench of HC,” Jafri’s lawyer MM Trimizi said.

“Since the HC division bench is hearing the Gulberg Society riot case, there is no point in moving the same bench. After studying today’s order, we are likely to move the lower court for a fresh investigation into the role of the then CM and top bureaucrats,” Trimizi told HT.

Ehsan Jafri and 68 others were killed when a rioting mob attacked their Muslim dominated Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002 in the aftermath of the Godhra train carnage. As investigations in cases progressed, Zakia in 2006 alleged that the police did not register FIRs against Modi, some minister and bureaucrats. Two years later, the Supreme Court ordered the state government to re-investigate nine major riots cases, including the Gulberg massacre.

On April 27, 2009, the apex court asked SIT to look into Zakia’s complaint over Modi’s alleged role. The SIT questioned Modi in March 2012 and a year later, it submitted a closure report, saying no proof to substantiate the allegations against Modi was found.

Testimonies of former IPS officers Sanjiv Bhatt, RB Sreekumar and Rahul Sharma were dismissed by the SIT calling them “vague”. Zakia challenged the closure report in a magisterial court, which on December 26, 2013 rejected her plea and upheld the report. In 2014, Zakia moved the high court challenging the magisterial court verdict.

First Published: Oct 05, 2017 12:07 IST

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