24 Jun 2022 5:06 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a petition filed by Zakia Ehsan Jafri challenging the closure report filed by SIT discarding the allegations of larger conspiracy by high state functionaries including the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and 63 others in the Gujarat riots of 2002 that ensued the Godhra train massacre.A bench comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari...
The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a petition filed by Zakia Ehsan Jafri challenging the closure report filed by SIT discarding the allegations of larger conspiracy by high state functionaries including the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and 63 others in the Gujarat riots of 2002 that ensued the Godhra train massacre.
A bench comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and CT Ravikumar upheld the decision of the Magistrate in accepting the closure report filed by the Special Investigation Team in the larger conspiracy case.
"We uphold the decision of the Magistrate in accepting the final report dated 08.02.2012 submitted by the SIT as it is and rejecting the protest petition filed by the appellant(Zakia Jafri)", Justice Khanwilkar read out the operative portion of the judgment.
"We don't countenance the submission of the appellant regarding infraction of rule of law regarding investigation and the approach of the Magistrate and the High Court in dealing with the final report. Accordingly, we hold the appeal is devoid of merits and deserves to be dismissed in aforementioned terms", Justice Khanwilkar added.
"We are grateful to your lordships", Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Gujarat Government, told the bench after the pronouncement.
Over a course of fourteen days, a Bench comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and CT Ravikumar heard the submissions of Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal appearing on behalf of the Petitioner, Senior Advocate Mr. Mukul Rohatgi appearing on behalf of SIT, and Solicitor General of India Mr.Tushar Mehta for the State of Gujarat at great length.
The bench had reserved judgment on December 9, 2021.
Jafri, the widow of Congress MP Ehsan Jafri who got killed in the Gulberg Society massacre during the 2002 Gujarat riots, filed the special leave petition in the Supreme Court challenging the October 2017 judgment of the Gujarat High Court which accepted the closure report filed by the SIT regarding larger conpiracy allegations against the state administration. However, the High Court granted liberty to Jafri to seek further investigation.
The Supreme Court held that there is no material for further investigtaion as well and that the SIT's closure report should be accepted as it is, without anything more.
"The question of further investigation would have arisen only on the availability of new material/information in connection with the allegation of larger conspiracy at the highest level, which is not forthcoming in this case. Hence, the final report, as submitted by the SIT, ought to be accepted as it is, without doing anything more", it said.
Also Read : Gujarat Riots - Mere Failure Or Inaction Of State Administration No Basis To Infer Conspiracy : Supreme Court In Zakia Jafri's Plea
Also Read : Gujarat Riots : Summary Of Supreme Court Judgment Dismissing Zakia Jafri's Plea To Probe "Larger Conspiracy"
Summary of petitioner's argument before Supreme Court
The crux of Mr. Sibal's argument was that the SIT did not conduct investigation on the crucial aspects of the matter, which was essential to establish a larger conspiracy. He questioned the inadequacy in the investigation, inter alia, with respect to police inaction and complicity, presence of two Ministers, namely, Ashok Bhatt and Zadafia in the Ahmedabad city police control room, mobile phone data of police officials, VHP affiliated persons appointed as Public Prosecutors etc. Displeased, that the evidence collected and presented by the Petitioner from the official records have been left unconsidered by SIT in toto, Mr. Sibal submitted that 'no Investigator with a sense of Justice will discard these evidence'. It was especially pointed out by him that the Tehelka tapes that had succeeded in securing conviction in the Naroda Pateya trial, were strategically overlooked by the Investigating Agency. Mr. Sibal went a step ahead to argue that the manner in which the investigation was conducted by SIT, it appeared that they were trying to hide something. In conclusion, he had reckoned that "This is a case where the Majesty of Law has been deeply injured.'
Per contra, Mr. Rohatgi had argued that the SIT did its job, often exceeding the remit set out by the Supreme Court, in their pursuit of justice. He emphasised that Zakia's allegations largely pointed towards dereliction of duty and did not disclose any criminality. Moreover, he expressed his suspicion that at present the Petition is being driven not by Zakia, who is the aggrieved one, but by Petitioner No. 2 i.e. Teesta Setalvad who has ulterior motives in pursuing the same. On the plea of the Petitioner to direct further investigation, Mr. Rohatgi submitted that if it is allowed by the Supreme Court it would be in the teeth of the constitutional rights of the accused, who have already undergone trial and have been acquitted.
Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta appearing for the State of Gujarat also made brief submissions on the alacrity of the State in handling the riots. He relied on an order of Gujarat High Court to dispute the bonafides of the Petitioner No. 2 in pursuing the present petition.
In his rejoinder argument apart from pointing out the inadequacies in the investigation, Mr. Sibal retorted to the diatribe against Teesta Setalvad - "If you stoke the fire, the pot will boil"
It was also pointed out by him that Mr. Rohatgi had extensively dealt with the allegations against the then Chief Minister, which he had not read while making his submissions. Emphasising on the dereliction on the part of SIT to consider the undisputed evidence in the form of Tehelka tapes, Mr. Sibal submitted -"In fact, the prosecution and SIT want this material to be effaced from the memory of this nation."
Case Title : Zakia Ahsan Jafri and another versus State of Gujarat and another | Diary No.34207/2018
Citation : 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 558
Gujarat Riots 2002 - Plea for probe into alleged larger conspiracy by high state functionaries dismissed- Upholds SIT's closure report exonerating Narendra Modi and 63 other high officials -Held, Conspiracy cannot be readily inferred merely on the basis of the inaction or failure of the State administration -inaction or failure of some officials of one section of the State administration cannot be the basis to infer a pre- planned criminal conspiracy by the authorities of the State Government or to term it as a State sponsored crime (violence) against the minority community (Paragraph 44 - 47)
Constitution of India- Article 356- Breakdown of Constitutional machinery - Law & Order - Gujarat Riots case - Breakdown of law-and-order situation if for short duration,cannot partake the colour of breakdown of rule of law or constitutional crisis. To put it differently, misgovernance or failure to maintain law-and-order during a brief period may not be a case of failure of constitutional machinery in the context of tenets embodied in Article 356 of the Constitution-There must be credible evidence regarding State sponsored breakdown of law-and-order situation; not spontaneous or isolated instances or events of failure of State administration to control the situation (Paragraph 45)
Indian Penal Code 1860 - Section 120B - Criminal Conspiracy - To make out a case of larger criminal conspiracy, it is essential to establish a link indicative of meeting of minds of the concerned persons for commission of the crime(s) - Para 44
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