By Tehelka Bureau
AMICUS CURIAE Raju Ramachandran’s report critiquing the evidence collected and conclusions drawn by RK Raghavan’s Special Investigation Team (SIT) on Narendra Modi’s role in the 2002 Gujarat riots is finally out in the public domain. As first reported by TEHELKA in its 11 February story (What the amicus really told the Supreme Court: Prosecute Modi) that Ramachandran had recommended Modi’s criminal prosecution for offences such as promoting religious enmity, doing acts prejudicial to national integration and wantonly disobeying law, the report blows craters in the SIT’s theory that there was no prosecutable evidence.
Most importantly, the amicus has dismissed SIT’s claim that IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt is an unreliable witness. He has also exposed the seemingly bizarre and illogical interpretations drawn by the SIT. For instance, what the SIT finds as non-prosecutable evidence, the amicus thinks it’s enough to commit the case for a criminal trial. He points out the self-contradictory positions the SIT has taken in its bid to close the case against Modi: It has used one set of unreliable witnesses (who have given evidence in favour of Modi) to discredit another set of witnesses (who gave evidence against him).
Also, what the SIT finds as evidence suitable for only departmental proceedings against certain police officers, the amicus finds them substantive enough to launch criminal proceedings against the erring officials. The SIT believes that senior IPS officers PB Gondia and MK Tandon — who deliberately chose to stay away from Gulberg Society, got bogus FIRs of communal violence registered at other relatively peaceful localities (to justify their absence from Gulberg) and paved the way for the mob to unleash the carnage — only deserve departmental action. The amicus believes this was no ordinary act of criminal negligence as it resulted in the loss of many innocent lives. But the SIT has chosen to ignore his observations.
The SIT probe against Modi and his government was ordered by the Supreme Court in 2009 while hearing a petition filed by Teesta Setalvad’s Citizens for Justice and Peace and Zakia Jafri, the widow of slain Congress leader Ehsan Jafri, who along with dozens of other Muslims, were hacked and burned to death during the riots. Zakia had made 32 specific allegations, the most serious being that Modi had given instructions to the then DGP, chief secretary and other senior officials to allow Hindus to freely vent their anger at Muslims for the Sabarmati Express carnage. This instruction was allegedly given at a meeting held at the CM’s bungalow in Gandhinagar on 27 February 2002.
In 2010, Bhatt, who was posted as a DCP with the state Intelligence Bureau during the riots, appeared before the probe and said that he was present at the above-mentioned meeting in which Modi had given illegal instructions to senior state functionaries. According to him, Modi had uttered these words: “There is a lot of anger in the people. This time, a balanced approach against Hindus and Muslims will not work. It is necessary that the anger of the people is allowed to be vented.”
He exposes how the SIT has taken self-contradictory positions in its bid to close the case
But the SIT claimed that Bhatt was not a reliable witness on the following grounds:
* Other senior officers present in the meeting have not corroborated Bhatt’s statement
* His silence for more than nine years without proper explanation appears to be suspicious
* There were a number of departmental inquiries pending against Bhatt and thus he had an axe to grind against the Modi government
But, after weighing the SIT’s arguments, the amicus has reached a diametrically opposite conclusion: “I disagree with the SIT’s conclusion that Bhatt should be disbelieved at this stage itself. I’m of the view that Bhatt needs to be put through the test of cross-examination, as do the others who deny his presence. I also find it difficult to accept the conclusion that Bhatt’s statement is motivated because he has an axe to grind.”
THE AMICUS’ report raises questions about various legal interpretations made by the SIT. He says that in the face of the fact that the SIT has no evidence to prove that Bhatt was present at a place other than Modi’s residence on the night of 27 February 2002, the only logical recourse would be to test the veracity of the claims made by Bhatt and the counter-claims of Modi and his team in a court.
“It is Bhatt’s word against the word of other officers, senior to him. The SIT has chosen to believe the senior officers,” says the amicus. Ramachandran has highlighted the SIT’s contradictory stand with regard to various witnesses. He has noted that the same set of witnesses used to discredit Modi were disbelieved by the SIT itself as most of them were awarded good post-retirement assignments by the chief minister.
Similarly, the amicus has refused to accept the SIT’S arguments with regard to the pending inquiries against Bhatt and the fact that he revealed the alleged utterances made by Modi after a gap of nine years. Bhatt’s explanation that he was an intelligence officer and would make a statement only when he was under a legal obligation, is ex-facie tenable, suggests Ramachandran. Then the amicus has laid out in detail the circumstances under which the meeting was called by Modi and has inferred that in the light of the given facts, it would not be proper to disbelieve Bhatt at this stage of the probe itself.
He has emphasised upon the presence of two ministers unconnected with the home portfolio in a police control room as an incriminating fact that further lends credence to the allegation of a larger conspiracy behind the riots. He has contended that what the law requires is the existence of some material that supports the allegation made by a complainant to initiate criminal proceedings and suggested that the case against Modi has passed this test and by not acting as per law, the SIT has in a way prejudged the case in favour of Modi.
“In my opinion, the offences that can be made out against Shri Narendra Modi, at this prima facie stage, are offences inter alia under Sections 153A (1) (a) & (b), 153B (1) (c), 166 and 505 (2) of the IPC,” the amicus’ report concludes.
‘EVEN AFTER such a heinous crime under his watch, Modi wants a clean chit. His actions have created a division in a secular society and created doubts in the hearts of the minorities. Why shouldn’t there be a probe against him?’
Rajendra Chowdhary, SP Spokesperson
Photo: Pramod Adhikari
‘YOU DON’T need rocket science to figure out whether Modi and the BJP were culpable in the riots. If you are expecting Modi or the BJP to do the correct thing, don’t be under any illusion because no amount of moral pressure is ever going to bring them to such a path’
Manish Tewari, Congress Spokesperson
Photo: Trilochan S Kalra
‘THE TRUTH has come out with the amicus curiae’s report. By no means can Modi escape now. It’s about time the world officially knew what happened in Gujarat in 2002. Politically, we all know how the BJP is suffering for harbouring Modi and not taking him to task’
Mohammad Salim, CPM Leader
Photo: Shailendra Pandey
‘WITHOUT THE state machinery’s connivance, such a massacre couldn’t have taken place. That’s why we need a thorough probe. There cannot be two truths. Not everyone thought the SIT report was true, that’s why it was challenged’
D Raja, CPI Secretary
Photo: Shailendra Pandey