Apex court asks Gujarat to form special probe team

March 26th, 2008 - 9:03 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Narendra Modi

New Delhi, March 26 (IANS) Observing that “religious fanaticism is worse than terrorism”, the Supreme Court Wednesday asked the Gujarat government to constitute a special investigation team (SIT) within 10 days to probe 10 crucial cases of communal violence in the state six years ago. A bench of Justices Arjit Pasayat, P. Sathasivam and Aftab Alam said the team would submit its probe report to the court in a sealed cover within three months and it would act further on the court’s order.

Asking the state government to issue a notification to form the SIT, the bench said the team would meet at the earliest to work out its modalities for the probe.

The bench said former Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director R.K. Raghavan will head the team, while Gujarat’s Inspector General of Police Geeta Johri would be its convenor.

The bench also named former director general of Uttar Pradesh police C.D. Satpathy and Inspector Generals Shivanand Jha and Ashish Bhatia of the Gujarat police as the members of the special probe team.

The bench expressed satisfaction over the state government’s readiness to form a special team for further probe into the communal violence cases.

“Gujarat has not objected to the further investigation. Gujarat government counsel Mukul Rohtagi says that the state is not interested in shielding the guilty. It seems to be a fair approach on the part of the state,” said the bench in its brief order.

Lamenting the communal carnage that claimed more than 1,000 lives in 2002, the bench observed: “Communal harmony is the hallmark of democracy. These kind of incidents are a slur on the society. All these cases are examples of communal disharmony.

“Religious fanatics do not belong to any religion. Religious fanaticism is worse than terrorism.”

The cases to be handed over to the SIT are those of rape, murder and arson at various places, including those at Godhra town, Gulbarga Society and Naroda Patiya in Ahmedabad, Best Bakery in Vadodara, Baranpura, Machipith, Tarsali, Raghovpura and Pandarwada.

The bench’s orders came on petitions by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), rights groups and several individuals affected by the violence that broke out following the burning of 59 passengers in a coach of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra, 140 km from Ahmedabad, Feb 27, 2002.

The petitions demanded a probe by the CBI and transfer of the trial of these cases outside Gujarat for a fair inquiry. They expressed fears the state government led by Chief Minister Narendra Modi was shielding the culprits.

The bench earlier sought the central government’s response on the plea by the NHRC and others for a CBI probe into these cases.

In an affidavit filed in early February, the government told the court it was willing to have the cases probed by the CBI and tried outside the state.

The bench, however, ignored the government’s willingness to have these cases transferred to the CBI for probe.

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