Activists oppose Modi’s choice of new Godhra panel judge

April 10th, 2008 - 12:22 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Narendra Modi

Ahmedabad (Gujarat), April 9 (IANS) Human rights activists in Gujarat Wednesday criticised Chief Minister Narendra Modi for appointing Justice (retired) Akshay H. Mehta to a commission probing the communal violence of 2002, as the judge has been earlier accused of granting bail to a prime accused under pressure. “This Akshay Mehta is the same man who gave bail to Babu Bajrangi. His inclusion in the commission does not inspire confidence among the riot victims,” said Teesta Setalvad of the Centre for Justice and Peace (CJP).

Bajrangi, a former Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader, is the main accused in the Naroda Patiya massacre of March 2002 that left at least 89 people dead.

“Will this same man decide the fate of victims?” Setalwad asked, talking to IANS here.

In an investigation carried out by the Tehelka newsmagazine late last year, Bajrangi is shown as telling an undercover reporter: “Narendrabhai got me out of jail. He kept on changing judges. He set it up so as to ensure my release, otherwise I wouldn’t have been out yet. … Next he posted a judge named Akshay Mehta. He never even looked at the file or anything. He just said [bail was] granted. And we were all out. We were free.”

Tehelka released videotapes of the expose last year and the material was placed before the commission, which now includes the same judge who, as Bajrangi said, “set us free”.

The state government Tuesday announced the appointment of Justice Mehta as new member of the commission headed by Justice (retired) G.T. Nanavati, in place of Justice K.G. Shah who expired last month.

Justice Mehta served as a judge of the Gujarat High Court for seven years and retired in December 2007.

The probe commission was constituted by the state government in March 2002. It is yet to submit its report after its term was extended a number of times.

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