Did SIT ignore Haren Pandya testimony?
Former Gujarat minister of state for home Haren Pandya was one of the important witnesses who had accused the Modi administration of allowing the 2002 anti-minority riots in which 1,200 people were killed. He had even testified before the Concerned Citizens Tribunal (CCT) on 2002 Gujarat riots.
Pandya, then juniour revenue minister, had told the tribunal that chief minister Narendra Modi had convened a meeting on the evening of February 27, 2002 after the train burning incident at Godhara and reportedly told the police to go slow on Hindus who were angry as 59 kar sevaks had been killed in Godhra."The tribunal received direct information through a testimony from a highly placed source of a meeting (on February 27, 2002) where the CM, two or three senior cabinet colleagues, the Ahmedabad police commissioner and an IG police were present. The meeting had a singular purpose: the senior-most police officials were told that they should expect a "Hindu reaction" after Godhra. They were also told they should not do anything to contain this reaction," the tribunal noted in the report referring to Pandya’s testimony.
Now, former Bombay high court judge Hosbet Suresh, who was a member, along with former Supreme Court judge PB Sawant, of the body headed by justice Krishna Iyer, has revealed that even audio recording of Pandya’s testimony exists. Justice Suresh had told the SIT about Pandya’s testimony, which can be treated as evidence against Modi.
However, SIT officials claim Pandya’s testimony did not qualify as admissible evidence to seek somebody’s prosecution. "One cannot take the testimony on face value because Pandya himself was not present in meeting and secondly, he did not disclose his source who told him what transpired in the meeting," said a senior SIT official. "What Pandya stated before the tribunal are mere allegations without any corroborative material," the official added.
Justices Sawant and Suresh had visited Gujarat shortly after the anti-Muslim riots broke out in 2002 and recorded their statements before the SIT in 2009. Their evidence was based on what was told to them by Pandya on May 13, 2002. Pandya was later murdered on March 26, 2003.