Dismissing allegations against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and 59 others in the 2002 post-Godhra riots, the Gujarat High Court, on Thursday, rejected Zakia Jafri’s plea challenging a magistrate’s order to uphold a special investigative team (SIT) clean chit to the accused.
However, the court allowed the petitioner’s demand for a fresh investigation in the case.
As reported by The Indian Express, Justice Sonia Gokani of the Gujarat HC said, “The trial court has self-limited itself in saying that further investigation, in this case, can’t be ordered. This order of lower court deserves interference. So, the petitioner can raise the issue before the concerned court that is the same magisterial court, the division bench of the high court or the Supreme Court.”
Further mentioning that the magisterial court was wrong in its verdict that it didn’t have the power to direct for the fresh probe in the case, Justice Gokani said, “The court doesn’t believe in the larger conspiracy theory propounded by the petitioners as the Supreme Court has monitored the investigation.”
Jafri, wife of slain ex-MP Ehsan Jafri and activist Teesta Setalvad’s NGO Citizen for Justice and Peace had moved the high court in March 2014, challenging a lower court’s verdict to accept the SIT report which stated that the then Chief Minister Modi had taken all initiatives to control the riot. Apart from Modi, Zafri’s petition alleged 59 others, including top police officials and bureaucrats, in connection with the riot, which claimed the lives of 69 people, a day after the coaches of Sabarmati Express were torched at Godhra station, killing 59 people.
Stating that the magistrate accepted the SIT’s closure report without even considering other options like rejecting the report or order for a fresh probe, Jafri’s lawyer Mihir Desai argued that the lower court even ignored the Supreme Court’s guidelines to consider signed statements of witnesses. Desai further informed the HC that the lower court ignored submissions of key witnesses including former IPS officers Sanjiv Bhatt, RB Sreedhar and Rahul Sharma.
After the SIT, in its closure report, gave a clean chit to PM Modi and other accused on February 8, 2012, the magistrate’s court in December 2013 rejected Jafri’s plea challenging the report, following which she filed a petition in the HC in 2014.