Apex court moots fast-track courts to try riot cases

April 13th, 2009 - 9:37 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 13 (IANS) The Supreme Court Monday suggested that special fast-track courts should be set up to try communal riot cases to ensure victims’ confidence in the rule of law.
A bench of Justice Arijit Pasayat made the suggestion while indicating that it would ask the Gujarat High Court to designate special fast track courts in various districts of the state, which was ravaged by the 2002 communal riots.

The bench, which also included Justice Aftab Alam and Justice P. Sathasivam, mooted the idea while hearing lawsuits by the National Human Rights Commission and several other civil societies, demanding a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into 10 crucial riot cases.

The lawsuit had also demanded shifting of the trial of those cases outside Gujarat.

Rejecting the NHRC’s plea for a CBI probe into the cases, the apex court had last year formed a panel, headed by former CBI director R.K. Raghavan, to probe the cases.

After forming the Special Investigation Team (SIT), the court had also suspended the ongoing trial into the cases, which included those at Godhra, Gulbarg Society, Naroda Patiya, Best Bakery, Baranpura, Machipith, Tarsali, Raghovpura and Pandarwada.

With SIT completing a major chunk of its investigation and submitting its probe report to the apex court last month, the bench was considering the issue of trying those cases.

By indicating that it would ask the state high court to constitute fast-track courts to try the cases, the bench virtually rejected the plea of transferring their trial outside the state.

The bench had earlier asked the state government to appoint a public prosecutor to try the riot cases in consultation with SIT.

It Monday sought further suggestions from various counsel, including senior counsel Harish Salve, who was appointed by the court to assist it in adjudication of lawsuits filed by the NHRC and other civil societies.

The bench also sought suggestions on the issue of protecting witnesses and constituting a body, which could be headed by a retired high court judge, to monitor the trial of the cases. The demand was raised by senior counsel Indira Jaisingh, who appeared for a civil society.

Seeking suggestions from various parties by next Monday, the bench adjourned the matter.

Readily accepting suggestions made by the court, Gujarat government counsel Mukul Rohtagi pointed out that the probe panel headed by Rahghvan in its report has rubbished allegations made by various civil societies against the state government in their lawsuit.

The panel has noted that most of the allegations were stereotyped, without any substance, said Rohtagi, seeking the court’s permission to read excerpts of the reports.

But the court did not allow this as it had last month declared the report “confidential” and out of bound for petitioners, including the NHRC.

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