Any attempt to reopen the “larger conspiracy” probe into the 2002 Gujarat riots will affect trials in cases already decided, and impact appeals pending before the higher courts, the special investigation team (SIT) told the Supreme Court on Thursday as the top court reserved its judgment challenging a closure report in which the SIT gave a clean chit to 63 people. One of the people exonerated was Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was then the chief minister of Gujarat.
The SIT, represented by senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi said, “If this court is to direct the magistrate to again start off the complaint, imagine what impact it will have on the trial and appeals pending in Supreme Court and Gujarat high court. People will have to be retried and convictions will have to be set aside.”
Rohatgi was responding to a petition — filed by Zakia Jafri, the widow of slain Congress MP Ahsan Jafri, and social activist Teesta Setalvad — accusing the SIT of not probing evidence into an alleged larger conspiracy involving politicians, bureaucrats, police officials, public prosecutors, and members of religious outfits. Jafri made a complaint in this regard in 2006, and the Supreme Court directed the SIT to examine the allegations. In February 2012, the SIT filed a closure report on the complaint that was challenged by the petitioners.
Reserving orders on the petition after a hearing that extended for 14 days, a bench of justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and CT Ravikumar allowed the parties to file any additional notes within a week.
Rohatgi said, “What does the petitioner think SIT is? I do not go around with a farmaan (diktat) arresting people. To say I should have arrested those named in the sting tapes (run by Tehelka magazine at the time) is completely unfounded. What is the probative value of these tapes is a different thing. But in the eyes of law, it is only an extra-judicial confession… The trump card of the sting (operation) has actually no sting in it.”
Out of the 18 persons named in the sting tapes, the SIT took statements of 13 persons, and the material contained in the sting was found to be unreliable, Rohatgi added.
He also alleged that the petitioner conveniently chose to add the names of some accused and deleted some by relying on subsequent statements, which resulted in 50 names being added to the original complaint containing 63 names. The SIT also accused the petitioner of presenting a “doctored” copy of the original complaint in the Supreme Court and said, “They have not replied to the doctoring of complaint. If this is not answered, they cannot get a hearing in this court.”
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the petitioners, said that the SIT has made several new disclosures before the top court that were not made before the Gujarat high court, which had dismissed Jafri’s petition in October 2017.
Over 1000 people were killed in the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat, according to a statement issued by the Central government to Parliament in May 2005.
The court did not indicate when a verdict will be delivered.