Friday, February 17, 2012

Prosecute CM or not? SIT seeks legal advice

Prashant Dayal | TNN

Ahmedabad: The Special Investigation Team (SIT), appointed by Supreme Court to probe the post-Godhra riots of Gujarat, has sought legal opinion on whether to prosecute five persons, including chief minister Narendra Modi, given the evidence they have. The officials have written to SIT’s legal adviser in this connection.

Besides Modi, the list includes former director general of police PC Pande, former additional DGP MK Tandon, inspector general of police, PB Gondiya and deputy superintendent of police KK Mysorewala. Zakia Jafri, key witness in the Gulbarg Society massacre of 2002, had filed a complaint before the SIT against 62 persons including Modi, other politicians, top IAS and IPS officers for negligence.

SIT has recorded the statements of all the 62 accused. Based on this, five of the 62 were arrested, including former state minister Mayaben Kodnani, former VHP leaders Jaideep Patel and Babu Bajrangi, BJP corporator Bipin Panchal and police inspector K G Erda.

“We have now sought legal opinion on whether the prima facie evidences collected against Modi and the four others are prosecutable,” said an SIT officer. Modi has been accused of provoking the 2002 communal riots while the cops have been accused of negligence. SIT has also asked their legal adviser on whether the cops’ negligence should be treated as criminal in nature.

The SIT is likely to file a closure report for the remaining 48 accused. This means that the SIT has not been able to collect any evidence to suggest their complicity in the 2002 communal riots. SIT sources said this was the last stage before their final report is submitted.

Once the legal adviser replies to the queries, the SIT members will file a final report on their findings. During the investigation, Jafri had filed an application seeking to drop charges against three IPS officers – Satish Verma, Kuldip Sharma and Rahul Sharma. One of the accused, former Gujarat minister and speaker of state assembly, Ashok Bhatt, died in 2011. Order on plea to summon Modi before Godhra panel reserved
Ahmedabad: The Gujarat high court on Tuesday reserved its order on an appeal seeking directions to the Nanavati commission to summon chief minister Narendra Modi and his three secretaries for cross examination in connectionwiththe 2002 riots.

Civil rights organization Jan Sangharsh Manch had been demanding Modi’s questioning before the Godhra probe panel. The commission in 2008 refused to summon Modi, but asked Modi’s three personal secretaries — O P Singh, Tanmay Mehta and Sanjay Bhavsar to file affidavits explaining their telephonic conversations on February 28, 2002, particularly with the riots accused. But the commission denied JSM an opportunity to cross-examine them even after they filed affidavits. Following this, JSM moved HC, but a single judge bench rejected its petition in 2010.

The appeal against single judge’s order was entertained by a division bench headed by then chief justice S J Mukhopadhaya, following whose elevation to the Supreme Court in the course of the appeal, it was referred to another bench of justices Akil Kureshi and Sonia Gokani.

As the hearing concluded on Tuesday, HC kept its order to summon Modi before the Godhra panel pending.


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