Godhra panel asked to complete probe by Dec 31

August 26th, 2008 - 8:39 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 26 (IANS) The Supreme Court Tuesday granted time till Dec 31 to a panel to complete its probe into 10 crucial cases of communal carnage in Ahmedabad and elsewhere in Gujarat in the wake of the Godhra train carnage in February 2002.A bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat, P. Sathasivam and Aftab Alam gave the time to the panel after it submitted its interim report on its ongoing probe in a sealed cover and said it was yet to complete the probe.

The bench on March 26 had appointed the panel headed by R.K. Raghvan, a former Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), with Gujarat’s Inspector General of Police Geeta Johri as its convenor.

The panel also included former director general of Uttar Pradesh police C.D. Satpathy and inspector generals of Gujarat police Shivanand Jha and Ashish Bhatia as members.

The bench had constituted the Special Investigation Team on petitions by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), various rights groups and several individuals affected by the violence that broke out following the burning of a coach of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra, 140 km from Ahmedabad, Feb 27, 2002.

As many as 59 passengers had died in the tragedy, which sparked statewide communal violence in which at least 1,100 people were killed.

The cases handed over to the SIT included those of rape, murder and arson at various places, including those at Godhra town, Gulbarg Society and Naroda Patiya in Ahmedabad, Best Bakery in Vadodara and Pandarwada.

The petitioners had demanded a probe by the CBI and transfer of the trial of these cases outside Gujarat. In an affidavit filed in early February, the central government too had told the court it was willing to have the cases probed by the CBI and tried outside the state.

But the bench had constituted the special team to investigate the cases. The bench had ruled that it will pass further orders on the issue after the panel completes its probe.

During the Tuesday hearing, senior counsel K.T.S. Tulsi appearing for some of the accused, sought a small clarification of an order of the bench.

Tulsi submitted to the court that the bench’s March 26 order, as per which the probe team is to directly report to the apex court, is being construed as an order bypassing the legal and constitutional provisions.

He said that legal provisions mandate police, probing a criminal offence, to report its findings to a magisterial court and not to the apex court of the country.

At this Justice Pasayat remarked: “Let the accused come here.”

Tulsi’s bid, however, to make his point a little firmly to the bench only angered it. “Don’t raise your voice. We are not accustomed to raised voices,” the bench said.

Justice Aftab Alam, however, told Tulsi: “We are there to uphold the constitution. It might be your interpretation that our order bypassed constitution.”

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