24 oct 2011commentary by Manoj Mitta and Vidya Subrahmaniam]
In another first for communal violence cases, amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran has proposed criminal action against senior police officers for causing death by negligence during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
NEW DELHI: It’s not just a recommendation for a charge sheet against Narendra Modi. In another first for communal violence cases, amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran has proposed criminal action against senior police officers for causing death by negligence during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Responding to reports emanating from the Special Investigation Team (SIT) in Ahmedabad, informed sources in Delhi clarified that the charge sheet recommended by Ramachandran against the chief minister was not for any speeches in the public but on the basis of suspended police officer Sanjiv Bhatt’s allegation that he had given anti-Muslim directions to the top brass of Gujarat police on the eve of the post-Godhra mass killings.
According to these sources, the amicus appointed by the Supreme Court said in his July report that Bhatt’s allegation could not be brushed aside at this stage merely because the other officers present in that fateful meeting of February 27, 2002 had either pleaded amnesia or denied his very presence at that meeting in Modi’s residence. Ramachandran also disagreed with SIT’s view that Bhatt could not be believed because of his own allegedly controversial record and for the nine-year delay in coming up with his disclosure.
The amicus apparently said that Bhatt’s testimony deserved to be taken into account by the SIT because the officer could well have been present at the meeting as the sole representative of the intelligence wing and he had explained that the delay citing his inability to make any disclosure until he was legally required to reveal what he had gathered in the course of his intelligence work.
Though the amicus did not expressly say that Modi should be charge sheeted on Bhatt’s testimony, it was the “necessary implication” of his recommendation that Bhatt and all the officers contradicting him be cross examined in order to find out the truth about Modi’s instructions to the police. The question of testing the veracity of these witnesses in the course of the trial would not arise, sources pointed out, unless Modi is charge sheeted for his alleged conduct at the meeting.
The report to the Supreme Court containing Ramachandran’s assessment of the material on record said that on Bhatt’s testimony, Modi was prima facie liable to be tried under the following sections of the Indian Penal Code: 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion), 153B (imputations prejudicial to national integration), 166 (public servant disobeying law with intent to cause injury to others) and 505 (statement provoking public mischief).
In his July report, the amicus curiae also disagreed with the SIT’s opinion that senior police officers such as M K Tandon and P B Gondia deserved no more than departmental action for their lapses in preventing or controlling the Gulberg Society massacre. Ramachandran said that there was enough evidence to charge them under Section 304A IPC, which penalizes death caused by negligence.
Sources said that the amicus however agreed with the SIT’s conclusion that no criminal action could be taken against Modi for his infamous “kriya pratikriya” statement to a TV channel, invoking Newton’s third law as a justification for the government’s failure to curb the killings allegedly provoked by the Godhra train massacre.
As for reports that SIT had asked him to appear as a witness in the Ahmedabad trial court, Ramachandran told TOI that he had not so far received any such communication. If that happens, he may move the apex court to clarify that he could not be cited as a witness as he had done no independent investigation.
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Amicus report lays the ground for chargesheeting Narendra Modi
The report of the amicus curiae in the Zakia Jafri case has laid the ground for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to be charge-sheeted for his alleged role in the 2002 anti-Muslim Gujarat pogrom.
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Rejects SIT’s decision to close case against Gujarat CM
The report of Raju Ramachandran, the amicus curiae in the Zakia Jafri case, has laid the ground for Narendra Modi to be charge-sheeted for his alleged role in the 2002 anti-Muslim Gujarat pogrom.
The report is still confidential, though it has now been shared with the Special Investigation Team set up by the Supreme Court to investigate and prosecute cases stemming from the 2002 violence in which more than 1200 persons were killed.
According to informed sources in Ahmedabad, who briefed The Hindu on the report’s contents, the report strongly disagrees with the SIT’s view that no case against the Gujarat Chief Minister was made out. It says that only the cross-examination of senior Gujarat police officers, including Sanjiv Bhatt — who stated that he was present when Mr. Modi instructed police officials to allow Hindus to vent their anger — could establish whether the Chief Minister was innocent or guilty.
Significantly, the report also says that Mr. Bhatt’s statement was made probable by the presence of two Ministers in the Ahmedabad Police Control Room (PCR) at the time Muslims were being attacked.
If the trial court accepts Mr. Ramachandran’s view, the sources said, the stage will have been set for the prosecution of the Chief Minister under various sections of the IPC, among them, 153 A (statements promoting enmity between communities), 153 B (imputations and assertions prejudicial to national integration) 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) and 166 (public servant disobeying a direction of the law with the intent to cause injury).
Under Section 166, any public servant who disobeys a direction of the law as to how he should conduct himself as a public servant and knowing the act will cause injury is liable to be punished with imprisonment for a term extending to one year. As the chief executive in control of the administration, Mr. Modi was especially under obligation to quell the riots, the sources said.
The SIT was tasked by the Supreme Court to investigate Ms. Jafri’s complaint against Mr. Modi and 61 others. The Court subsequently asked Mr. Ramachandran independently to evaluate the reports filed by the SIT by interacting with witnesses.
The sources said the SIT recommended closing the case against Mr. Modi on the grounds that police officer Bhatt, who was vital to fixing blame on the Chief Minister, was a controversial and unreliable witness. The SIT also concluded that there was no material on record to show in
terference by the two Ministers who were present in the PCR when Muslims were being attacked across Ahmedabad.
In his testimony to the SIT, Mr. Bhatt had said he was present at the February 27, 2002 meeting where Mr. Modi instructed top police officials to allow Hindus to “vent their anger” against Muslims. The meeting was held late in the evening at the Chief Minister’s Gandhinagar residence. The SIT said none of the other officers present at the meeting had corroborated Mr. Bhatt’s presence.
The sources said the amicus disagreed with the SIT’s conclusions, arguing that evidence has to be weighed and not counted, and this can happen only when Mr. Bhatt and others present at the meeting are cross-examined in the trial court. The amicus’ view was that it would be premature and presumptuous to close the case against Mr. Modi without an adversarial party putting the other officers to rigorous questioning: Mr. Bhatt could turn out to have lied. Equally, other officers present could turn out to have lied.
The amicus was in fact credited with the view that the presence in the police control room of two Ministers unconnected to the Home portfolio probablised Mr. Bhatt’s statement. More so because the SIT had itself suggested that the Ministers had the Chief Minister’s blessings (Tehelka magazine which scooped the SIT report quoted Mr. Raghavan as saying that the presence of the two Ministers fuelled speculation that they were there with Mr. Modi’s blessings.)
If the view of the amicus is rejected by the SIT, Ms. Jafri and her co-complainant Teesta Setalvad will have the option to contest it in the trial court. The court can also form its own, independent opinion on the views of the amicus.
Amicus report lays the ground for chargesheeting Narendra Modi
From: The Times of India
‘Book Gujarat cops for neglect during riots’
Manoj Mitta, TNN | Oct 23, 2011, 01.30AM IST