Supreme Court forms special team to probe Gujarat carnage

March 26th, 2008 - 12:56 am ICT by admin  


New Delhi/Ahmedabad, March 25 (IANS) Acting on petitions by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), rights groups and individuals affected by the 2002 communal carnage in Gujarat, the Supreme Court Tuesday decided to constitute a special team to probe 10 cases. However, a rights groups in Ahmedabad described the apex court order as “thinking aloud” by the court as it has not passed an order yet.

A bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat, P. Sathasivam and Aftab Alam took the decision while hearing petitions seeking either a probe into these cases by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or transfer of the trial outside the state. The bench, however, decided to pass the formal order, constituting a special investigation team (SIT) for the probe Wednesday.

The five-member SIT to be headed by former CBI director R.K Raghavan, will also include A. Sathpathy, a former police officer of Uttar Pradesh cadre.

Mukul Sinha, the Ahmedabad-based rights group lawyer of Jan Sangharsh Manch (JSM), said that the apex court has not passed any order yet, but the media has gone to town as if the court has issued the order.

Sinha, who is fighting the 2002 Gujarat riot cases on behalf of the minority victims, told IANS what the Supreme Court had said was “by way of suggestion. It is a suggestive phase. The court was only thinking aloud.”

“The necessary orders about the SIT are expected to be passed by the apex court on Wednesday,” Sinha said.

“As far as the SIT formation is concerned it is definitely a positive step and a good step at that. The victims of post-Godhra riots had all but lost hope of securing justice. This is now a chance for the victims. If proper officers who can inspire trust among the victims are appointed then it will indeed be a welcome step,” he said.

On the names of three senior Indian Police Service officers from Gujarat suggested by the state government - Gita Johri, Sivananad Jha and Ashish Bhatia - Sinha said there is no unanimity on the names.

“Though I personally do not know the three yet the minute they are named by the Modi government they get tarnished by association,” he said.

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

At least 1,000 people were killed in the 2002 carnage in Gujarat that broke out following the burning of 59 Hindu activists in a coach of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra on Feb 27, 2002.

The apex court bench had earlier sought the central government’s response to the pleas.

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

“The central government submits it would have no objection to the investigation of the cases by the CBI and transfer outside the state of Gujarat, if so desired by this court,” the home ministry has told the apex court in its affidavit.

But ignoring the government’s willingness to have these case transferred to the CBI for probe, the bench during the hearing suggested forming a special team, headed by Raghavan, to carry out further probe.

Both the Gujarat government counsel as well as those representing NHRC and individual petitioners welcomed the suggestion.

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