SC not to transfer UK citizens case out of Gujrat
'We can't presume that you can't get justice in the state of Gujarat', the Bench observes, reports Satya Prakash.Updated: Jan 08, 2007 20:38 IST
The Supreme Court on Monday refused to transfer civil suits by three British citizens out of Gujarat, who claimed over Rs 22 crore as damages against Chief Minister Narendra Modi and his administration in connection with the post Godhra riots that claimed hundreds of lives in the state.
A Bench of Chief Justice of India-designate KG Balakrishnan and Justice DK Jain said that the civil suits filed by the petitioners could not be compared with the riots-related criminal cases, some of which were transferred out of the state.
"We can't presume that you can't get justice in the state of Gujarat," the Bench observed.
As the court made it clear that it was not inclined to entertain the transfer plea, the petitioners' counsel chose to withdraw it.
British nationals of Indian origin Imran Salim Mohammad Dawood and the widows of Shakeel Dawood and Sayed Dawood had filed the suits in the court of Sabarkantha District and Sessions Judge at Himmatnagar. While Shakeel and Syed died in an attack by a mob in February 2002, Imran survived. Imram claimed a sum of Rs 4.36 crore as damages while the widows of the two killed NRIs claimed Rs nine crore each.
Senior counsel Indira Jaisingh had contended that the atmosphere in Gujarat was not conducive to a fair trial and that the witnesses would not come up to depose in view of the fear of the local administration under Modi, who was one of the defendants in the suits. She said Modi was responsible for the incident due to his acts of 'omission and commission'.
When she pointed out that the courts in Gujarat closed about 2000 riots cases without properly scrutinising them, the Bench sought to emphasise that a civil suit was different from a criminal case where the state had to prosecute the accused. In a civil case the state did not have any role to play, it clarified.
"So we take it to the logical conclusion that no court in Gujarat will render justice henceforth," the Bench asked sarcastically.
The court also termed as "irrelevant" the petitioners' reference to a September 2006 Minority Commission report that most of the riot victims were still living in camps and that their witnesses in those camps would not be free from fear to depose.
Jaisingh had cited a 1986 case wherein the Supreme Court had ordered transfer of a case out of Punjab during militancy but the court pointed out that it was transferred on the plea of the defendants and not the plaintiffs, as was the case before it.
The Bench said the nature of injuries sustained was not given properly and wondered how Imran Mohammad could damages to the tune of Rs 4.36.
When the petitioners sought transfer of these cases to the Gujarat High Court, the apex court said "we have the same amount of confidence in the District Courts as we have in the High Court." It declined the prayer saying, the District Court can decide the question in a speedy manner.