“Ulterior Design”: Supreme Court On Appeal Involving PM On Gujarat Riots

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An appeal against the exoneration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a 2002 Gujarat riots case by the wife of a Congress MP killed in the violence is “devoid of merits” and filed “to keep the pot boiling”, the Supreme Court said on Friday.

Upholding the clearance issued to the then Chief Minister of the state by a Special Investigation Team or SIT, the top court dismissed the petition filed by Zakia Jafri, wife of Ehsan Jafri, who was among the 68 people killed in what came to be known as the Gulbarg Society massacre.

The plea was filed “to keep the pot boiling, obviously, for ulterior design”, the court said, in strong comments that, it added, were borrowed from arguments made by the SIT.

“All those involved in such abuse of process need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law,” the judges said, surmising that the appeal was filed under “dictation of someone”.

They said petitioner’s arguments were bordering on “undermining the integrity and sincerity” of SIT members and most of the content in the plea was “based on versions of others which have been found to be replete with falsehood”.

It also said that the submissions by Ms Jafri were “far-fetched and an attempt to undo and undermine the industry of the SIT in investigating the cases”.

The Gulbarg Society massacre was one of the worst incidents of violence in the riots that began after a train coach carrying pilgrims was burnt in Godhra, killing 59 people, a day ago.

Ms Jafri, 84, had sought a fresh investigation into the communal riots, alleging a larger conspiracy involving politicians and the police.

Supreme Court Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and CT Ravikumar had reserved the verdict last December.

The massacre at Ahmedabad’s Gulbarg Society – a cluster of 29 bungalows and 10 apartment buildings housing mostly Muslims – was among the 10 major Gujarat riot cases re-investigated by the special team appointed by the Supreme Court.

Ehsan Jafri, a former Congress parliamentarian, was among 68 people dragged out, hacked and burnt by the rioters. The Congress leader’s frantic phone calls to police officers and senior politicians for help went unanswered, Zakia Jafri had alleged.

The Special Investigation Team had submitted its closure report in February 2012 – a decade after the riots – and exonerated Prime Minister Modi and 63 others, citing “no prosecutable evidence”.

In 2016, a special court in Ahmedabad convicted 24 attackers for the massacre that the court described as the “darkest day in the history of civil society.” But the court, which also acquitted 36 people including a BJP corporator in this case, underlined that there was no larger conspiracy.

Over 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in the three-day violence in Gujarat in 2002.

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