2002 Gujarat riots: SIT came out with flying colours unscathed, says SC

New Delhi, Jun 24 (PTI) The Supreme Court Friday appreciated the SIT for the indefatigable work done in the 2002 Gujarat riots cases, saying it has come out with flying colours unscathed and there is no hesitation in accepting its opinion that no case has been made out to indicate a larger conspiracy to cause or precipitate mass violence against the minority community in the state.

The apex court, while upholding the SIT's clean chit to then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and 63 others in the 2002 riots in the state, said it is not open to holding that the probe by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) in the case has been deficient or infirm.

A bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar observed that no fault can be found with the SIT's approach in submitting February 8, 2012, final report, which is backed by firm logic, expositing analytical mind, and dealing with all aspects objectively for discarding the allegations regarding larger criminal conspiracy (at the highest level) for causing and precipitating mass violence against minority community during the relevant period in 2002.

The top court dismissed a plea by slain Congress leader Ehsan Jafri's wife Zakia Jafri, who had alleged a larger conspiracy and had challenged the Gujarat High Court's October 5, 2017 order rejecting her petition against the SIT decision.

On February 8, 2012, the SIT had filed a closure report giving a clean chit to now Prime Minister Narendra Modi and 63 others, including senior government officials, saying there was "no prosecutable evidence" against them.

The apex court observed that the SIT had formed its opinion after considering all the materials collated during the investigation.

Be that as it may, after going through the analysis done by the SIT of the concerned allegations, we have no hesitation in accepting such opinion that no case had been made out against the named offenders, much less to indicate being party to the hatching of larger criminal conspiracy to cause or precipitate mass violence across the state against the minority community during the relevant period, said the bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and C T Ravikumar.

It observed that the question of further investigation would have arisen only on the availability of new material/information in connection with the allegation of a larger conspiracy at the highest level, which is not forthcoming in this case.

It said the SIT was entrusted with the investigation of nine sets of crimes, including the occurrences at the Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad.

The bench noted that status reports regarding the progress of investigation were submitted to the apex court in all those cases and after satisfaction of the court about the completion of proper investigation done by the SIT, reports under section 173 of the Code of Criminal Procedure came to be filed in concerning cases and the identified persons involved in the commission of crime were sent for trial.

It said despite the humungous task undertaken by the members of the SIT with sincerity, objectivity and dispassionately including to the satisfaction of the apex court in all these cases, the argument of the appellant was bordering on undermining the integrity and sincerity of the SIT members.

While parting, we express our appreciation for the indefatigable work done by the team of SIT officials in the challenging circumstances they had to face, and yet, we find that they have come out with flying colours unscathed, the bench said.

The apex court noted it is certainly not a case of failure of SIT in doing a proper investigation into the allegations of a larger conspiracy as such.

Needless to underscore that the SIT came to be constituted by this court of experienced senior officials with proven ability of investigating complex offences. Therefore, we find such submission as not only far-fetched and an attempt to undo and undermine the industry of the SIT in having thoroughly investigated all the nine (9) sets of cases assigned to it by this court, but also in the nature of questioning the wisdom of this court, it said.

Hence, the assail of the appellant needs to be stated to be rejected. While observing sobriety, we say no more, it said.

The bench noted that every registered crime in that regard, including the unfortunate gruesome killing of Zakia Jafri's husband, was duly investigated by the court-appointed SIT and accused persons involved in the commission of such crimes were duly identified and had to face trial before the jurisdictional courts.

It said the magistrate, as well as the high court, have accepted the final report presented by the SIT.

For, there is no material worth the name to even create a suspicion (leave alone strong suspicion and a ground for presuming that the named offenders had committed an offence of larger conspiracy), indicative of the meeting of the minds of all concerned at some level; and in particular, the bureaucrats, politicians, public prosecutors, VHP, RSS, Bajrang Dal or the members of the state political establishment - for hatching a larger criminal conspiracy at the highest level to cause and precipitate mass violence against the minority community across the state during the relevant period, it said.

Such conclusion reached by the magistrate and the high court is unexceptionable, the bench said.

Congress leader and former MP Ehsan Jafri was among the 68 people killed at Ahmedabad's Gulberg Society during violence on February 28, 2002, a day after the Godhra train burning that claimed 59 lives.