Even for a party that pays mere lip service to constitutional principles, it was a moment of great shame. A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India directs the Special Investigation Team (SIT) – specially appointed by the court to reinvestigate the major cases of carnage in Gujarat in 2002 – to also investigate the role of chief minister Narendra Modi and 61 others, including top BJP politicians, VHP bigwigs, civil servants and police officers, in the genocidal killings and then to file a charge sheet (also called a final report) against the 62 accused before a trial court in Gujarat.
The apex court’s order was the culmination of a protracted process initiated in mid-2006 by Zakiya Ahsan Jaffri, wife of former Congress MP Ahsan Jaffri who was killed in gruesome fashion along with 68 others at Gulberg Society, Ahmedabad, on February 28, 2002. Ms Jaffri’s 119-page complaint backed by 2,000 pages of supporting evidence accused Modi and 61 others of several serious offences, including conspiracy to commit mass murder. When the Gujarat police refused to lodge an FIR (first information report), Ms Jaffri, supported by Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), filed a writ petition in the Gujarat high court seeking judicial directions for registration of an FIR. After the high court dismissed the petition in November 2007, Ms Jaffri and CJP appealed to the Supreme Court.
The apex court did more than order the registration of an FIR. It asked the SIT to look into the Zakiya Jaffri-CJP complaint. As the petitioners repeatedly drew the court’s attention to the apparent cover-up by the SIT, the court asked the amicus curiae in the matter, Raju Ramachandran, to independently examine the evidence collected by the SIT and submit his report to the court. On September 12, 2011 the Supreme Court of India instructed the SIT that it may now place a final report of its own findings and inferences along with the material collected by it and the amicus curiae’s report before a trial court in Gujarat.
We will know in the near future whether the SIT in its report/charge sheet implicates any or all of the 62 persons accused in the complaint or whether it absolves them by choosing to file a ‘closure’ report. The judicial magistrate will then examine the SIT’s recommendations and other material placed before it and decide whether or not the case has merit and whether any or all of those accused should be charged. However, it is clear from the Supreme Court’s order that if the SIT does indeed file a closure report, the magistrate will, before reaching a final decision, have to make available to the complainants – Ms Jaffri and CJP – all the material placed before the court. Should the magistrate decide not to take cognisance of the offences, or to absolve one or more of the accused, he/she must first provide the complainants with an opportunity to be heard. And if the complainants are in any way dissatisfied with the trial court’s final ruling, they have the right to challenge the verdict in the Gujarat high court and thereafter, if need be, in the Supreme Court.
Whether Modi and the 61 others are guilty of conspiracy to commit mass murder, and other serious offences, will finally be decided only through the due process of law, by the trial court and thereafter, if the magistrate takes cognisance of the case, by the court already hearing the Gulberg Society case or else, if the complainants choose to appeal the court’s decision, by the Gujarat high court and the Supreme Court. In other words, there is a long legal battle ahead before Modi and others are held “guilty” or “not guilty” in a court of law.
But a few things can be stated with certainty. India has a shameful record when it comes to justice for the victims of recurrent state-condoned, state-sponsored pogroms against its religious minorities: Muslims, Sikhs, Christians. The perpetrators and the masterminds of the mass killings are never punished; nor are the police and other administrative officers who are guilty of partisan conduct and gross dereliction of duty. It is thanks to the dogged determination of hundreds of victims of the 2002 genocide and CJP, which has stood firmly behind them against an extremely vindictive and hostile state machinery, that this prevailing culture of impunity has been seriously challenged. Never before have the masterminds of mass murder, complicit police officers, bureaucrats or politicians from the ruling party (let alone an entire busload of them at one go) been so close to getting their just deserts.
For some years before this case, CJP’s battle for justice in Gujarat had notched up historic milestones. Its petition before the Supreme Court in 2003 in the Best Bakery case, for example, resulted in the first ever order for the transfer of a communal violence case to another state – from Gujarat to Maharashtra. All those who had been acquitted by a trial court in Vadodara (whose acquittal was upheld by the Gujarat high court) were subsequently retried and held guilty and given stringent punishment. CJP’s legal interventions brought into national and judicial focus issues such as witness protection, the need for impartial public prosecutors and the right of witnesses to be represented by their own lawyers in court.
Now the Supreme Court directive of September 12 has sent out the message that the hitherto prevailing culture of impunity can no longer be taken for granted. To its utter shame, instead of introspection at this moment of reckoning, the BJP and the sangh parivar are shamelessly feigning victory, lending their weight to Modi’s farce of a fast for ‘communal harmony’ and remaining silent as the increasingly desperate chief minister targets activists and police officers such as RB Sreekumar, Rahul Sharma and Sanjiv Bhatt who adhere to their constitutional obligations.
Archived from Communalism Combat, Sept.-October 2011 Year 18 No.160, Editorial
Although the road ahead is a long one, the Supreme Court ruling in the Zakiya Jaffri and CJP case is certainly no victory for Narendra Modi
On June 8, 2006 when Zakiya Ahsan Jaffri, as-sisted by Mumbai-based Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), filed a mammoth 119-page complaint supported by 2,000 pages of documentary evidence, little did she know – or really expect – that the Supreme Court of India would actually conduct an investigation under its watch through a Special Investigation Team (SIT) and thereafter ensure through a detailed order that her complaint would be treated as an FIR and a charge sheet also be filed. In the event that the SIT files a closure report, the petitioners’ right to a protest petition has been allowed.
The course of the Supreme Court-monitored investigations over a one-year period revealed serious lacunae in the functioning of the SIT, including the SIT chairman’s attempt at exonerating Narendra Modi. The chairman’s efforts were checked by the report of his own investigating officer (IO), AK Malhotra, and the independent assessment provided by the amicus curiae in the matter, Raju Ramachandran. After Ramachandran submitted his 10-page preliminary note in January 2011, the Supreme Court had, in March 2011, directed the SIT to reassess its own findings submitted 10 months earlier.
If nothing else, the verdict of the Supreme Court delivered on September 12, 2011 is a huge victory for the rule of law and for those of us who believe in due process and transparency and accountability in governance.
While not wasting valuable column space on the banal attempts by Modi and his party to give himself, and themselves, a clean chit, it is worth looking carefully at paragraphs 8 and 9 of the order (uploaded on the CJP website, www.cjponline.org) which clearly state that under Section 173(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), the complaint – now to be treated as a de facto FIR – will, along with all relevant investigation papers, first be placed before a regular magistrate’s court and then, if so deemed, be committed to the court already hearing the Gulberg Society case. The task will be to file a substantive, expanded charge sheet against Modi and 61 others. What is more, according to the law, and a specific direction of the Supreme Court in this order, the complainants will be given a chance at every stage – in case the SIT baulks again, which is not unlikely, or the judge decides to exclude one or more individuals from among those named as accused – to be heard and carry their appeal right up to the Supreme Court.
The process will no doubt be arduous. And in the current climate where communalism and mass crimes do not commandeer national outrage as, say money matters in the 2G spectrum scam do, it will take every bit of effort to ensure that the battle, bravely fought, reaches an effective conclusion. For any one of the 20-odd magistrates before whom the SIT report/charge sheet could be placed, it will be a definitive test of independence and integrity.
Will a magistrate sitting in Ahmedabad be able to withstand the pressure, vitriol and vindictiveness of Modi’s administration? Difficult though it may be to keep the faith, at such a time we would do well to remember Judge SP Tamang, the Ahmedabad metropolitan magistrate inquiring into the Ishrat Jahan case, who, on September 7, 2009, submitted an exemplary report against all odds. The report indicted a number of police officers, including the then Ahmedabad police commissioner, for the murder in 2004 of the Mumbra-based teenager and three others that Modi and the central government had cynically made out to be hardened terrorists.
Contrary to popular belief, the Supreme Court verdict in the Zakiya Jaffri-CJP case exceeds the petitioners’ demands. While the now historic petition No. SLP 1088/2008 sought the registration of an FIR against Modi and 61 others, the Supreme Court order in fact goes several steps further, taking the criminal matter to the committal stage where cognisance will be taken, and prosecution begun, of the complaint.
Not surprisingly, the facts are at variance with the pernicious propaganda spread by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in this regard. Their views were unfortunately echoed on many of India’s television channels, raising questions about the media’s competence as well as its allegiances. Many in the broadcast media cheerfully announced a ‘clean chit’ for Modi early in the morning of September 12 and then tempered their telecasts as initial interviews with Tanvir Jaffri (son of Zakiya and the late Ahsan Jaffri) and Teesta Setalvad, and print interviews with amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran over the next few days, stated to the contrary. Far from being an exoneration of Modi and company, the recent judgement demonstrates that the apex court finds merit in the complaint and has now directed a lower court to take it forward as procedures allow.
The petitioners have never pleaded that the Supreme Court should directly indict Modi. They have never said and do not believe that anyone should be convicted without due process of law, hanged as they are so easily in RSS-desired Taliban-style kangaroo courts. They would also like to state for the record that they do not believe in the death penalty for anyone, not even a gun-wielding terrorist or a Narendra Modi who calculatedly employed all the resources at his command to paralyse his administration while murder stalked the streets. Apart from conspiracy to commit murder, other serious charges in the complaint include the deliberate efforts to doctor investigations through faulty registration of FIRs, the appointment of incompetent and ideologically biased public prosecutors, the destruction of evidence and terrorising witnesses into turning hostile.
All this and more is the subject matter of the criminal complaint filed in 2006. The only one of its kind in India, it is the first criminal complaint related to communal violence that goes beyond indicting individuals responsible for acts of violence to trace the outbreak of violence further, drawing links between the chief minister, his cabinet colleagues, leaders of empathetic political right-wing outfits and officials of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and the Indian Police Service (IPS) who bowed to the murderous designs of their political boss.
We must not allow ourselves to forget what Gujarat 2002 was about. Over 300 well-orchestrated incidents of violence spread across 19 of Gujarat’s 25 districts, the calculated murder of 2,500 innocents in reprisal killings, several instances of daylight rape, the destruction of Muslim-owned property worth Rs 4,000 crore and the destruction of 270 dargahs and masjids. Almost or just as bad as the violence itself is the deliberate subversion of justice, the destruction of evidence and the intimidation and influencing of witnesses.
The conclusion of the case so doggedly fought by Zakiya Ahsan Jaffri and Citizens for Justice and Peace will be a litmus test for the Indian system, to establish whether it has the courage to punish those responsible for some of its bleakest hours.
A unique trajectory
After the Gujarat police refused to entertain their complaint in June 2006, the petitioners moved the Gujarat high court for registration of an FIR against 62 persons and transfer of the investigation to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The high court dismissed their petition in November 2007. However, the petitioners efforts were subsequently rewarded when the Supreme Court took cognisance of the case on March 3, 2008. A little over a year later, on April 27, 2009, the Supreme Court handed over the investigation not to the CBI but to the Special Investigation Team headed by former CBI chief RK Raghavan, which had been appointed by the apex court 13 months earlier to reinvestigate nine major Gujarat carnage cases.
In May 2009, Communalism Combat had, in its cover story ‘The Accused’, detailed critical elements of this complaint which was substantively different from that of the Gulberg Society case, one of the nine major carnage cases being reinvestigated by the SIT. Yet both the SIT and the state of Gujarat kept confusing the two cases. The primary distinction between the carnage cases and this complaint is the list of accused and the offences.
The accused in the complaint of June 8, 2006 (now treated as an FIR by the Supreme Court) are: the chief minister, Narendra Modi, 11 state cabinet ministers, three MLAs, three members of the ruling party in the state, three office-bearers and three members of extremist right-wing organisations and 38 high-ranking police officers and bureaucrats, beginning with the director general of police, Gujarat.
The progress of this case has been marked by high drama and behind-the-scenes subterfuge. However, it received scant attention until January 20, 2011 when the newly appointed amicus curiae, Raju Ramachandran, submitted a preliminary note to the Supreme Court which resulted in the court issuing directions to the SIT to reassess its findings. Until then, the media seemed uninterested in the proceedings, choosing to overlook the additional substantive evidence that the petitioners had regularly filed in support of their original complaint. The January 2011 order was the first sign that the SIT’s pathetic attempts to exonerate Modi and others from prosecution, in spite of the investigations carried out by its own IO, AK Malhotra, would not be accepted by the court.
Within days of the amicus curiae’s report being submitted to the Supreme Court and the court’s directions in the matter, Rahul Sharma, a serving IPS officer whose upright testimonies had allowed crucial evidence to enter the public domain, was served with a show-cause notice by a vindictive Narendra Modi-led Gujarat government. The notice was served on February 4, 2011. Sharma was later charge-sheeted on August 13, 2011 for speaking to the Supreme Court-appointed SIT and the state-appointed Nanavati-Shah Commission (now the Nanavati-Mehta Commission). It was Rahul Sharma’s deposition before the Nanavati-Shah Commission in 2004, when he made available a CD containing vital cellphone call records, that enabled CJP to analyse this data and place it before the commission and the courts.
Each hearing of this and related cases in the Supreme Court was punctuated by dubious attempts by the state of Gujarat and even the SIT to mislead the court and malign the petitioners – especially after October 2009 when CJP questioned the quality of the investigations being conducted by the SIT in the nine carnage cases. CJP secretary Teesta Setalvad was a specific target.
In a report to the apex court during hearings held in September-October 2010, the SIT mentioned a routine call made by Setalvad to the public prosecutor in the Gulberg Society case, RC Kodekar, who claimed that she had tried to threaten him. In January 2011, during the hearing of the matter pertaining to the carnage cases, the amicus curiae in that matter, Harish Salve, pointed out correspondence between CJP and the Geneva-based United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the threats received by senior advocate SM Vohra, counsel for the victims in the Gulberg case. Unfortunate observations by the bench on this matter attracted media publicity which worked to the advantage of a state responsible for mass crimes and determined to target those who stood up against it.
During this period a national daily was also used, on or about the date of every hearing, to project complete victory for the Modi government. On December 3, 2010, the date of the Supreme Court hearing in the Gujarat 2002 matters, as in January 2011, blatant efforts were made by an accused and cornered Gujarat government to manipulate sections of the media (‘SIT clears Narendra Modi of wilfully allowing post-Godhra riots’, The Times of India, December 3, 2010).
And yet, through 2010, when the SIT investigations were underway, it was reports in The Times of India and The Hindu that drew attention to the 15 phone calls made between the chief minister’s office/secretariat and the Ahmedabad police commissioner, PC Pande, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. on February 28, 2002, significant because they were made around the same time that the massacres at Naroda Patiya and Gulberg Society were taking place even as the police did nothing. CJP submitted detailed analyses of important phone call records to the Nanavati-Shah Commission in May 2010 (reported in Communalism Combat’s cover story, ‘Dial M for Massacre’, in June 2010) and to the Supreme Court in July 2011.
But finally, it was the exhaustive coverage by Tehelka magazine, which scooped the SIT report and contrasted this with evidence that CJP had gathered and submitted to the court, in two important stories (‘Here’s the smoking gun’, February 12, 2011, and ‘I was there. Narendra Modi said let the people vent their anger’, February 19, 2011), that impacted on the entire discourse. Television channels were now forced to look at the issues that Jaffri and CJP had raised over the past five years.
A subsequent report by Tehelka, ‘Whose Amicus is Harish Salve?’, in its March 12, 2011 issue exposed that the conduct of senior lawyer Harish Salve as amicus curiae in the Gujarat carnage cases gave rise to a conflict of interest. The story revealed that even while he was amicus curiae in the crucial mass murder cases before the Supreme Court, Salve continued to lobby the Gujarat government for projects for his wealthy corporate client, Eros Energy (Kishore Lulla). Incidentally, RK Raghavan, chairperson of the Supreme Court-appointed SIT, happens to be a corporate security adviser at a Tata company.
In April 2011 events took another dramatic turn as the much publicised affidavit of deputy inspector-general of police Sanjiv Bhatt, filed before the Supreme Court, drew widespread attention to the illegal instructions issued at a secret meeting held by Modi on February 27, 2002 – almost nine years after details of this meeting were first revealed in Crime Against Humanity, the report of the Concerned Citizens Tribunal – Gujarat 2002. In the affidavit, submitted directly to the Supreme Court registry and amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran, Bhatt detailed among other things how his testimony before the SIT in November 2009 and early 2010 had been leaked to the state government and led to intimidation from his superiors. This provided further confirmation of the petitioners’ suspicions about the conduct and integrity of the SIT.
In March 2011 the SIT had recorded a subsequent, formal statement from Bhatt under Section 161 of the CrPC. With this, Bhatt also submitted voluminous documents from the State Intelligence Bureau (SIB), including material that would prove that Modi was personally aware of the impending attack on Gulberg Society on the morning of February 28, 2002 when he deliberately did not intervene but instead allowed the mobs to attack former parliamentarian Ahsan Jaffri and others. After first informing OP Singh, Modi’s personal assistant (PA), Bhatt is stated to have personally informed the chief minister of the worsening situation at Gulberg Society.
Sanjiv Bhatt was suspended from service on August 8, 2011 and then charge-sheeted on September 18 even as Narendra Modi was fasting for ‘sadbhavna’, or communal harmony! On Friday, September 30, he was arrested on apparently trumped-up charges.
Doubts have been raised about the authenticity of Bhatt’s disclosures ever since his dramatic and relatively late appearance in public view. In response to this, we would like to point out that Sanjiv Bhatt was in fact cited as a witness by the petitioners in their original complaint precisely because his name figured extensively in the SIB records available to them.
Extracts from the complaint
List of witnesses:
1. KC Kapoor, in 2006, principal secretary, home; 2. Manoj D. Antani, in 2002, superintendent of police (SP), Bharuch; 3. AS Gehlot, in 2002, SP, Mehsana; 4. Vivek Srivastava, in 2002, SP, Kutch; 5. Himanshu Bhatt, in 2002, SP, Banaskantha; 6. Piyush Patel, in 2002, deputy commissioner of police (DCP), Vadodara; 7. Maniram, in 2002, additional director general of police (ADGP), law and order; 8. Vinod Mall, in 2002, SP, Surendranagar; 9. Sanjiv Bhatt, in 2002, SP, security, State Intelligence Bureau; 10. Jayanti Ravi, in 2002, collector, Panchmahal; 11. Neerja Gotru, in 2003, special investigating officer assigned to reopen investigations in some riot-related cases; 12. Rahul Sharma, in 2002, SP, Bhavnagar; 13. RB Sreekumar, in 2002, ADGP, intelligence.
In their complaint, the petitioners have also pointed out that Modi held several secret, undocumented meetings during that period at which many witnesses were present, who should also be examined and interrogated for information.
The superintendents of police in the districts of Mehsana, Banaskantha, Sabarkantha, Patan, Gandhinagar, Ahmedabad rural, Anand, Kheda, Vadodara rural, Godhra and Dahod, where mass killings were reported during the riots, all need to be specifically interrogated for their roles as also their failure to document illegal and unconstitutional instructions from the chief minister and other representatives of the state government.
Archived from Communalism Combat, Sept.-October 2011,Year 18, No.160 - Cover Story
CJP condemns the arrest of Sanjiv Bhatt
Citizens for Justice and Peace strongly condemns the vindictive action of the Gujarat government in arresting Sanjiv Bhatt, senior IPS officer, in an action that is nothing short of an attempt to intimidate an important witness in the Zakiya Ahsan Jaffri and CJP criminal complaint against chief minister Narendra Modi and 61 others. This action of the Gujarat police, under the direct instructions of the state’s home minister – Narendra Modi, amounts to tampering with evidence and direct intimidation of a key witness. It is also a cheap attempt to slur his character and standing.
Key issues need to be raised here. One, that through his affidavit before the hon’ble Supreme Court dated April 2011 he had testified to criminal and unconstitutional instructions being issued by Modi at a late-night meeting on February 27, 2002, the day of the Godhra incident. In his statements before the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team, he also gave documentary data about Modi’s abdication of responsibility on February 28, 2002, the day attacks on Gulberg Society and Naroda Patiya in Ahmedabad were in full swing. Finally, last but not least, in an affidavit filed before the Gujarat high court recently, Bhatt had even mentioned that both Modi and Amit Shah, former minister of state for home, had tried to intimidate and pressurise him into not giving facts and evidence in the possession of the State Intelligence Bureau, related to the assassination of former minister of state for revenue, Haren Pandya. The CBI investigation into the Pandya assassination has recently been severely criticised by the Gujarat high court.
Most critically, Bhatt had challenged this FIR for which he was arrested, through writ petition 135/2011 in the Supreme Court. (This criminal complaint is allegedly a fabricated FIR filed in June 2011 by KD Panth, his former driver, alleging that Bhatt had pressurised him into filing an affidavit to support the officer’s claim that he was present at the meeting held at the chief minister’s residence on February 27, 2002). The Supreme Court had issued notice to the Gujarat government on July 29, 2011. This hasty and vindictive, even desperate, action of the Gujarat police, while the matter is under consideration by the Supreme Court, raises serious issues of contempt of the highest court, due process and, most importantly, intimidating a witness critical to a trial to ensure public justice. With our matter now awaiting charge-sheeting before a Gujarat magistrate’s court, the arrest of Bhatt is also a clear attempt by the state of Gujarat to warn us all collectively and individually of repercussions if we struggle for justice. It is a pathetic subversion of the Constitution and the rule of law.
(Press release issued by Citizens for Justice and Peace on October 1, 2011.)
The FIR, the SIT report and the data unearthed during CJP’s investigations contain considerable evidence of serious crimes and grave miscarriages of justice, leading to serious allegations that have emerged in this context. We examine some of them.
Allegation I: The decision to take the charred bodies of the victims of the Godhra arson to Ahmedabad, handing them over to an office-bearer of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), not to government officials. The bodies were handed over to the then state general secretary of the VHP, Dr Jaideep Patel, who is accused of instigating the mob in the Naroda Gaon case. The decision to parade them through Ahmedabad in unrestrained funeral processions during which mobs raised provocative slogans. The allegation in the FIR is that the decision to take the bodies in a ceremonial procession to Ahmedabad was a premeditated decision taken by chief minister Narendra Modi against the advice of the Panchmahal (Godhra) collector/district magistrate, Jayanti Ravi.
The SIT has in its findings stated that given the presence of the then minister of state for home, Gordhan Zadaphiya, at Godhra, it was a collective decision of the cabinet. Although Zadaphiya and Jaideep Patel initially concurred on this, Zadaphiya has since given a contrary statement to the SIT that implicates Modi. Investigating officer AK Malhotra speaks of two separate cremations at Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002 whereas SIT chairperson RK Raghavan casually mentions one. Neither of the two SIT officials gives weight to the documentary evidence provided in the Gujarat State Intelligence Bureau report (titled C/Dir/Smashan yatra/176/2002 and dated February 28, 2002) marked to Modi’s office and senior police officials, wherein the “likelihood of disturbances” after funeral processions was pointed out.
Call records of Jaideep Patel
An analysis of Jaideep Patel’s call records is revealing. It shows that between 8:03 p.m. and 11:58 p.m. on February 27, 2002 he made and received calls to/from Gordhan Zadaphiya. Patel was also in constant touch with police officers; we do not know why. His call records show that between 1:05 p.m. and 9:16 p.m. on February 27, 2002 he made and received calls to/from the then DCP (zone V), Ahmedabad, RJ Savani. CJP submitted details of Patel’s call records to Malhotra which show that he was also in close touch with chief minister Narendra Modi’s office. Malhotra is strangely silent on this. On February 28, 2002 Jaideep Patel had five telephone conversations with the chief minister’s office (CMO). Why?
The question that remains is whether it is normal procedure to hand over bodies of the victims of a tragedy in such a sensitive matter, which could have widespread repercussions on intercommunity peace and harmony, to an office-bearer of an organisation like the VHP which has a virulent track record of instigating violence but which happens to have powerful political patrons, including the chief minister and senior functionaries of the ruling party in the state?
Allegation II: The illegal instructions, to allow Hindus to vent their anger, issued by Modi at a top-level meeting held at the chief minister’s residence on February 27, 2002. It is clear from the SIT’s investigations that such a meeting did take place. It has also been established that no minutes of the proceedings were kept. The continuing dispute is about what transpired at the meeting.
The SIT recorded a joint statement from Justice PB Sawant, a former judge of the Supreme Court, and Justice Hosbet Suresh, a former judge of the Bombay high court, who had been members of the Concerned Citizens Tribunal – Gujarat 2002. They narrated details about the February 27 meeting from the confessions made to them by the late Haren Pandya, former minister of state for revenue, in mid-May 2002 when he deposed before the tribunal. In their statement before the SIT, they clearly stated that Pandya had testified before them that “Narendra Modi had made it clear that there would be a backlash from Hindus on the next day… and police should not come in their way”. The FIR also refers to Pandya’s testimony relating to a high-level meeting convened by the chief minister to which the then chief secretary, the then home secretary and senior policemen were summoned and to whom clear instructions were given “not to deal with the Hindu rioting mobs”.
Sanjiv Bhatt, who is currently making headlines, had earlier told the SIT that he would speak about this meeting and the illegal instructions issued at the meeting only if there was a legal obligation to do so. Bhatt, who in 2002 held the post of SP, security, in the SIB, also referred to a message received at the control room on February 27, 2002 announcing that the chief minister had called for a situational review meeting. As is now well known, the SIT subsequently recorded a statement from Bhatt under Section 161 of the CrPC and he has since submitted an affidavit in this regard to the Supreme Court of India.
The FIR records that RB Sreekumar, who in 2002 held the post of ADGP, intelligence, had stated in an affidavit before the Nanavati-Shah Commission that the then director general of police (DGP), Gujarat, K. Chakravarti, had told him about the crucial meeting held by Chief Minister Modi on February 27, 2002. The chief minister had said at the meeting that “in communal riots, police takes action against Hindus and Muslims on one-to-one basis. This will not do now, allow Hindus to give vent to their anger” (paragraph 84 of RB Sreekumar’s fourth affidavit before the Nanavati-Shah Commission dated October 27, 2005).
Allegation III: The illegal stationing of two ministers in the state and city police control rooms is a fact that has been established. The SIT admits this. However, there has been no attempt to further investigate the logical consequences of political interference with the proper functioning of the police i.e. preventing the police in several districts from doing their constitutional duty. The FIR refers to press reports of the time which documented the presence of senior cabinet ministers in the state and city police control rooms and their illegal interference in police functioning, their subversion of police rules and protocol by instructing policemen not to function and otherwise manipulating instructions.
Who was the chief minister calling while Gujarat burned?
The CMO makes 15 calls to the Ahmedabad police commissioner, PC Pande, on February 28, 2002. The CP does not step out of his office between 10:50 a.m. and 7:10 p.m. although the city was aflame from about 11 a.m. onwards. Were these calls directly correlated to the instructions given to top echelons of the police not to act?
The CMO makes contact with the VHP Gujarat general secretary, Dr Jaideep Patel (now an accused in the Naroda Gaon massacre), five times on February 28, 2002. This includes three conversations with Sanjay Bhavsar, officer on special duty to
the chief minister, and one with the chief minister’s PA, Tanmay Mehta.
The chief minister’s office numbers record only three telephone calls through the day that Ahmedabad was burning i.e. February 28, 2002. His residence records only two calls. Is this not unusual?
Allegation IV: The failure of the police to act, especially as a direct result of political interference. The FIR details several instances that corroborate this.
a) K. Chakravarti, the then DGP of Gujarat, had not given any special instructions about the preservation of law and order and no strict instructions on how mobs should be dealt with.
b) The then CP, Ahmedabad, PC Pande, commented on Newshour, Star News, on February 28, 2002 that: “These people also, they somehow get carried away by the overall general sentiment. That’s the whole trouble. The police are equally influenced by the overall general sentiments.”
c) Rahul Sharma, who in 2002 held the post of SP, Bhavnagar, stated during his cross-examination before the Nanavati-Shah Commission in 2004 that the attack on a madrassa housing hundreds of Muslim children, which took place under his jurisdiction on March 1, 2002, appeared to be an organised one. He also revealed that the minister of state for home, Gordhan Zadaphiya, had later complained to him about the greater number of Hindu deaths in police firing in Bhavnagar as compared to Muslims.
d) Police Inspector (PI) Khurshid Mysorewala, who was stationed at the Naroda police station in 2002, in an affidavit and during his cross-examination before the Nanavati-Shah Commission in 2004, averred that due to the lack of preventive measures, the instructions from superiors about system overload, the non-provision of reinforcements and other reasons, he was unable to avert the attacks or respond to the Muslim victims’ cries for help and stop the heinous crimes that took place in Naroda Patiya.
e) MK Tandon, in 2002, the JCP, Ahmedabad, stated in his cross-examination before the Nanavati-Shah Commission that when the incidents at Naroda Patiya and Gulberg Society, Meghaninagar, occurred, neither he nor the police commissioner were present; that none of the policemen who were present used force to try and disperse the mob; and that no inquiries were made by the state home minister regarding the breakdown of law and order. When the attack on Gulberg Society took place, two deputy superintendents of police, one PI and one officer of the Central Industrial Security Force were present but no strict measures were taken to disperse the mob.
Allegation V: The illegal instructions given by upper echelons of the Gujarat executive to senior policemen, recorded by the then ADGP, RB Sreekumar, in a handwritten personal register and detailed in the FIR.
a) RB Sreekumar, in his third affidavit before the Nanavati-Shah Commission dated April 9, 2005, records the attempts made by senior officers in his department and the then undersecretary, Dinesh Kapadia, the then secretary, law and order, GC Murmu, and the then government pleader, Arvind Pandya – after Sreekumar had filed his first affidavit before the commission – to pressurise him to refrain from filing further affidavits and from telling the truth before the commission i.e. to make him commit the criminal offence of perjury. Sreekumar stated that he was intimidated and warned by Murmu and Pandya to lie on oath and to avoid telling the whole truth.
b) Paragraph 91 of Sreekumar’s fourth affidavit dated October 27, 2005 lists the names of several senior bureaucrats and police officials who, despite the expanded terms of reference of the Nanavati-Shah Commission (which, after July 2004, included within its ambit the “role and conduct of the then chief minister or any other ministers in his council of ministers, police officers, other individuals and organisations” in regard to the post-Godhra violence), bowed to pressure and did not file second affidavits that would have enlarged on the conduct of the chief minister Narendra Modi or any other ministers, etc.
Allegation VI: Officers of the state have been directly influenced to testify to falsified events and thereby commit the criminal act of perjury, as the FIR demonstrates. At the time when the FIR was prepared, this related to the lies and contradictions stated on oath by senior IPS and IAS officers in their affidavits before the Nanavati-Shah Commission.
Former Ahmedabad police commissioner PC Pande (accused No. 28 in the FIR) stated on oath before the Nanavati-Shah Commission that he had a memory lapse regarding what actually transpired at Gulberg Society on February 28, 2002. The commission failed to question him about why curfew was not imposed in Ahmedabad city until as late as 1 p.m. on February 28 when on February 27, 2002 itself at least 14 incidents of mob violence had been recorded in FIRs by the police. He was subsequently examined by the SIT on two occasions when, having apparently regained his memory, he denied being in possession of control room records and other crucial evidential material.
The absence of these documents was recorded by the SIT’s investigating officer, AK Malhotra. Listing the constraints faced by him as IO, he cites “destruction of critical documentary evidence” as one of the limitations he faced. Ironically, records were ostensibly destroyed in 2007 while the Supreme Court was seized of the matter thus amounting to contempt of court.
Chapter XI of the Indian Penal Code, ‘Of False Evidence and Offences Against Public Justice’ (Sections 201-205), and Chapter X, ‘Of Contempts of the Lawful Authority of Public Servants’ (Sections 175, 177, 187 and 188), refer to offences by public servants of failing to assist the course of public justice, destroying evidence and so on. After the Supreme Court first indicated that it would look beyond the SIT’s dismissive conclusions (January 20, 2011) and the SIT began formally recording statements under Section 161 of the CrPC, PC Pande made an interesting turnabout.
In its earliar report submitted to the Supreme Court, the SIT did find Modi guilty of a brazenly communal mindset. It remains to be seen what shape the SIT report/charge sheet will now take
On April 11, 2011 AK Malhotra came to Mumbai to record the statement of CJP’s Teesta Setalvad under Section 161. She insisted on mentioning the destruction of records as a specific culpable, criminal offence whereupon Malhotra unexpectedly informed her that, post-January 20, while the SIT was recording his statement under Section 161, PC Pande had done a complete turnaround and submitted a CD containing 3,500 scanned pages of hitherto ‘destroyed’ documents. Setalvad had in a letter to the SIT dated April 21, 2011 pointed out that Pande’s selective suppression of records during the SIT’s earlier investigations, and the mysterious reappearance of these documents, itself merited thorough investigation.
Allegation VII: The top echelons of the state administration and police force deliberately ignored the reports and warnings issued by their own State Intelligence Bureau, and other indicators, as demonstrated in the FIR.
a) RB Sreekumar, in paragraph 17 of his first affidavit before the Nanavati-Shah Commission dated July 6, 2002, stated that in response to a message received from the Uttar Pradesh intelligence department (during the period preceding the Godhra incident), the Gujarat SIB had requested all SPs and police commissioners to inform the SP, Faizabad, about the movement of kar sevaks from their respective jurisdictions. Following this, on February 16, 2002 the SP, Western Railway, Vadodara, had informed the IGP, intelligence, Uttar Pradesh, that on February 22, 2002 Prahlad Patel, president of the Bajrang Dal, Mehsana, would be leading a group of 150-200 trishul-bearing Bajrang Dal activists to the Ayodhya Maha Yagna on the Sabarmati Express.
b) In paragraphs 18 and 19 of the affidavit, Sreekumar points to the failure of the central and Uttar Pradesh (police) intelligence departments to provide adequate and timely information to the Gujarat state or SIB about the return journey of the kar sevaks, their unruly behaviour while returning from Ayodhya aboard the Sabarmati Express and, more specifically, their altercation with Muslims when the latter attempted to board the train at Rudauli.
c) In addition to the reports relating to the trouble anticipated on and after February 28, 2002, as communal violence persisted beyond the initial phase, the Gujarat SIB continued to provide specific intelligence reports, as revealed in paragraph 26 of Sreekumar’s first affidavit. In two such reports dated April 15 and April 26, 2002, the SIB provided information about impending communal trouble, including among other things the plan by radical Hindu elements to launch a large-scale assault on a Muslim colony in Ahmedabad and a plan by Bajrang Dal leaders to distribute lethal weapons. None of these reports were acted upon by the police hierarchy or the state executive.
Allegation VIII: The punitive treatment meted out by the state to those police officers who acted constitutionally to maintain law and order. While the FIR mentions six officers who were so punished, since then, at least three more officers have received similar treatment at the hands of the state.
Allegation IX: The rewards given to the senior IAS and IPS officers who bowed to Chief Minister Modi’s diabolical, unconstitutional plans. The FIR names 14 officers who were so rewarded.
Allegation X: The subversion of the criminal justice system.
The appointment of public prosecutors (PPs) with allegiances to the groups that led the violence was covered exhaustively in the May 2009 issue of Communalism Combat. Since then, CJP has investigated further and filed applications under the Right to Information Act, especially after a report on NDTV on March 29, 2010 revealed that many of the defence lawyers appearing for the accused in the nine major carnage trials have been appointed special public prosecutors to be paid Rs 12-15,000 a day with a specially amended rule of the Gujarat government’s legal department stating that fees would even be paid for days of adjournment. Hence the state of Gujarat is footing the bill for many lawyers appearing for the key accused in the post-Godhra massacres.
- Gulberg Society trial: Defence counsel Mitesh Amin is also a special PP, Gujarat. (Amin was paid Rs 25,52,000 by the state between April 1, 2009 and March 31, 2010.)
- Sardarpura trial: Defence counsel HM Dhruv, BC Barot and JG Rajput (now retired) were appointed special PPs, Gujarat. (HM Dhruv was paid Rs 17,28,000 by the state between April 1, 2009 and March 31, 2010.)
- Naroda Patiya trial: Defence counsel NM Kikani, BO Sharma, NR Shah, Bharat J. Joshi, MJ Dagli, HC Patel, SR Patel, GS Solanki, KN Thakor and RN Kikani were appointed special PPs, Gujarat.
- Naroda Gaon trial: Defence counsel Chetan K. Shah, Rohit H. Verma, Rajesh N. Modi, MR Khandar, Nilesh Lodha, HC Patel and PO Sharma were appointed special PPs, Gujarat. (Chetan Shah was paid Rs 2,97,000 by the state between April 1, 2009 and March 31, 2010.)
- Odh trial: Defence counsel CK Patel, Bharat J. Joshi and Ashwin H. Dhagad were appointed special PPs, Gujarat.
- In its earliar report submitted to the Supreme Court, the SIT did find Modi guilty of a brazenly communal mindset. It remains to be seen what shape the SIT report/charge sheet will now take.
As the nation debates, dissects and protests yet another attempt by a divisive regime to tear asunder our pluralistic, composite culture, and the last vestiges of our socio-cultural diversity, let us take an in-depth look into the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB).
As the nation debates, dissects and protests yet another attempt by a divisive regime to tear asunder our pluralistic, composite culture, and the last vestiges of our socio-cultural diversity, let us take an in-depth look into the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB).
News in Brief
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