No Supreme Court order on Narendra Modi, magistrate asked to decide

The Supreme Court refused to pass an order on the alleged inaction of the Gujarat chief minister during the 2002 riots.

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The Supreme Court has returned to a magistrate in Ahmedabad all material relating to accusations made by Zakia Nasim Ehsan Jafri against Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and other influential persons alleging that they abetted the killing of her husband Ehsan Jafri, a Congress MP, in the 2002 post-Godhra carnage.

Asking the complainant, who the court said was a “hapless victim of the abominable and woeful events”, to wait for the magistrate’s decision, the apex court on Monday said it will not monitor the investigation anymore.

Disposing of the widow’s petition challenging the Gujarat high court order that refused to entertain her plea that Modi be named accused in the killing of her husband, a three-judge bench referred to the various provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, asserting that the power to take cognisance vests with the magistrate that was seized of the FIRs against 62 accused in the massacre at Gulberg society where Jafri was burnt alive.

Zakia Jafri had appealed against the Gujarat high court order that refused to direct the police or the magistrate to register her private complaint against Modi and others.

A bench of Justices DK Jain, P Sathasivam and Aftab Aalam directed the chairperson of SIT, RK Raghavan, to forward a final report along with the entire material collected by it to the magistrate court. It would be open to the SIT to obtain from Raju Ramachandran copies of his reports. The magistrate concerned “will deal with the matter in accordance with law relating to the trial of the accused, named in the report or charge sheet”.

However, judges deemed it necessary to emphasise that if for any stated reason, the SIT opined that there was not sufficient evidence or reasonable grounds for proceeding against any person named in Jafri’s complaint,  the magistrate “shall issue notice” to her and make available all the material, including the reports and testimonies of witnesses.

“That the court hasn’t dismissed her lawsuit is good enough to appreciate the order that the case is open and no one is above suspicion,” a lawyer appearing in this matter in his independent capacity said.  

A former chief justice of India, who had headed a bench that dealt with the Gujarat riot cases, has regretted that the apex court has refused to monitor the investigation and the trial. On condition of
anonymity, the former CJI said, “As so many years have passed since then, it would have been better if the Supreme Court had given an assurance that it would bring the outcome to logical conclusion.”

On the other hand, a Gujarat government lawyer expressed satisfaction but minced no words when saying, “The magistrate concerned can take an independent call on the special investigating team and Raju Ramachandran’s reports.”

“The magistrate may or may not reject the SIT report that absolves Modi and direct fresh investigation. It can also issue summons to persons who it feels are important in the cases,” the lawyer said. “It’s a no-win situation for both the contesting parties.”

Ramachandran was assisting the court in this case and had “interacted” with various witnesses, including senior IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt who had filed an affidavit, saying he was present at the meeting in which Modi was alleged to have said “let Hindus vent their ire and avenge the Godhra carnage”.

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