New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed concern at selective leakage of the Special Investigation Team’s report on the Gujarat riot cases in the media, while reserving verdict on a batch of petitions filed by the National Human Rights Commission and others. A Bench consisting of Justices Arijit Pasayat, P. Sathasivam and Aftab Alam took on record the suggestions given by the amicus curiae, the NHRC, the Gujarat government and Citizens for Justice and Peace. The court had stayed the trial of over a dozen cases following the demand for a CBI probe. The SIT was appointed by the court to probe afresh 10 relatively gruesome incidents that occurred during the 2002 pogrom.
When senior counsel Indra Jaising complained about a news item (relating to social activist Teesta Setalvad) in an English daily, quoting excerpts from the SIT report, Justice Pasayat said: “The SIT report is in a way a charge sheet given to the Supreme Court. That is why we have not given copies to all. We gave copies only to the State of Gujarat and the amicus curiae.”
Justice Pasayat showed counsel copies of the SIT report given to the court still in sealed covers. “If anybody has given a copy or access of the report [to the newspaper] he has betrayed the trust of this court. We don’t approve of this. We deplore this…”
Justice Alam said: “Whoever did it, this is grossly unjustifiable. It should not have been done. It is a grossly irresponsible act and we feel ashamed.”
Ms. Jaising accused the Gujarat government’s senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi of divulging the contents of the SIT report to the electronic media. “I am entitled to speak to television channels,” Mr. Rohatgi retorted. However, Justice Pasayat cautioned him not to mention anything selectively about the report.
Earlier, Harish Salve, amicus curiae, stressed the importance of continuing with the SIT and taking directions from the Supreme Court from time to time. Justice Pasayat indicated that the SIT would continue to function.
Mr. Salve pleaded for vacating the stay on trial in these cases and establishment of fast track courts in Gujarat to conduct the trial on a day-to-day basis.
His submission said supplementary charge sheets would have to be filed in each of the cases as the SIT had found further material. A team of prosecutors must be appointed to conduct the trial, for which senior judicial officers should be appointed. It would be helpful if some of the SIT officers were available to assist the public prosecutor.
Mr. Salve said there must be a programme to ensure safe passage for witnesses to and from the court precincts, provide security to them in their residences and relocate them in another State wherever the need arose.
The SIT “would continue to function and carry out any investigations that are yet to be completed, or any further investigation that may arise in the course of the trials. The SIT would also discharge such functions as have been cast upon them by the order as may be made by the Supreme Court,” Mr. Salve said.
The Hindu, April 22, 2009