Modi in soup over new Godhra panel judgeApril 9th, 2008 - 10:48 pm ICT by admin
Ahmedabad, April 9 (IANS) Justice Akshay H. Mehta, appointed Tuesday to a commission probing the Gujarat communal violence of 2002, has been accused of earlier granting bail to a prime accused under pressure - a charge that will trouble Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The state government Tuesday announced the appointment of Justice (retired) Mehta as new member of the commission, in place of Justice K.G. Shah who expired last month.
Rights activists, however, were quick to point out that Babu Bajrangi, a prime accused in the violence in Naroda Patiya here that left at least 89 people dead, had named Justice Mehta as the one who bailed him out.
“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,” Bajrangi is shown as telling an undercover reporter of the Tehelka newsmagazine.
Tehelka released videotapes of the expose last year.
Rights groups, including the Jan Sangharsh Manch (JSM) that is fighting the cases of victims and survivors of the violence, questioned Justice Mehta’s appointment.
Justice Mehta has served as a judge of the Gujarat High Court for seven years and retired in December 2007.
The probe commission headed by Justice G.T. Nanavati 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.