//Fate of 14 Gujarat riot cases hangs in balance

Fate of 14 Gujarat riot cases hangs in balance

Manoj Mitta


NEW DELHI: It was on November 21, 2003 exactly three years ago that the Supreme Court stayed the trial in 14 major cases related to Gujarat riots following allegations that they had not been investigated properly or that witnesses were not being allowed to depose fearlessly.

Successive Benches have since passed as many as 24 orders but the court has still not decided whether those 14 cases should be reinvestigated by the CBI (like Bilkees Yaqub gangrape case) or tried outside Gujarat (Best Bakery case).

On Wednesday, a Bench headed by Justice K G Balakrishnan is set to pass the 25th order on the PIL initiated by NHRC and now being pursued by Citizens for Justice and Peace.

SC has raised hopes of being close to giving its decision ever since session judge M L Mehta was appointed in July to wade through the voluminous submissions made by the petitioners and the objections raised by Gujarat government.

Mehta gave a report in August on the claims and counter claims made about each of the 14 cases. The court is set to make up its mind on the basis of Mehta's report.

Activist Teesta Setalvad of CJP, meanwhile, made a conflict of interest issue against Gujarat because of its decision to field advocate Vinod Gajjar before judge Mehta.

Setalvad objects to that because the same advocate had allegedly appeared for several riot accused in Gujarat. The prolonged stay on the trial of those 14 cases is partly due to the fact that SC heard the PIL only once in the whole of 2005.