Ahmedabad riot victims, lawyers welcome Supreme Court move

May 1st, 2009 - 3:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Narendra Modi Ahmedabad, May 1 (IANS) Survivors of communal violence in Gujarat and their lawyers Friday welcomed the Supreme Court’s order to the Narendra Modi government to protect witnesses and set up fast-track courts to deliver justice.
In Naroda Patia on the outskirts of the city, where at least 95 people were killed March 1, 2002, survivors were jubilant when they were told that the Supreme Court asked the Special Investigation Team (SIT) it has appointed to report every three months the status of the key cases it is probing.

Abdul Gaffar Gani, 50, a resident of Naroda Patia who was injured in a mob attack but managed to escape death, said: “This is a great relief for the riot victims and also for their lawyers as the SIT would keep the apex court apprised of the progress of the investigation regularly. There are still many of the riot victims who are awaiting justice for the past seven years.”

Hearing a bunch of petitions from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and others, the Supreme Court Friday ruled that the trial of 10 of the crucial post-Godhra train carnage riot cases will not be transferred out of Gujarat but ordered the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) government in the state to ensure that witnesses are protected against the accused.

It also asked the state to set up six special fast-track courts in Gujarat for the trial of the 2002 riot cases.

Salim Razzak, a 35-year-old tailor, said his family had high hopes of speedy trial and verdict as the SIT is working without bias and has also apprehended state minister Maya Kodnani and senior Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Jaideep Patel.

Lawyers connected with the trial of riot cases have welcomed the Supreme Court order.

J.M. Panchal, the state government lawyer arguing the riot cases in the Gujarat High Court, said: “The decision of the Supreme Court is welcome.”

On ther other hand, Mukul Sinha, senior lawyer representing victims, said the Supreme Court order was an important verdict.

“You can be assured of quick and fair trial now and that was very urgently needed. It is great news for the riot victims who had been waiting for justice for the past seven years,” he said.

“It is a welcome development,” Sinha added.

Asked if the verdict would affect the bail application made by Kodnani and Patel, Sinha said: “This verdict has nothing to do with her (Kodnani’s) plans to move to the Supreme Court seeking bail if her bail application is rejected in the Gujarat High Court where the matter is pending disposal.”

As many as 59 passengers were killed in the burning of a train coach at Godhra, 140 km from here, and the incident sparked statewide communal violence in which at least 1,180 people were killed.

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