india

Supreme Court reserves judgment in Zakia Jafri appeal

Wife of of Congress leader seeks probe into ‘larger conspiracy’ behind 2002 violence

The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved for judgment an appeal by Zakia Jafri, widow of Congress leader Ehsan Jafri who was killed in the 2002 Gujarat riots, for investigation into a “larger conspiracy” behind the violence.

Appearing before a Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, senior advocate Kapil Sibal reiterated that the Special Investigation Team (SIT) did not conduct a thorough probe into evidence which suggested a larger conspiracy of complicity in the highest echelons of the State’s power structure. Mr. Sibal, in his rejoinder, said the purpose of the plea was not to target anybody but only seek a thorough investigation into materials indicating deeper involvement.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, for the SIT, countered that the Supreme Court-appointed body had done a thorough investigation.

“An SIT appointed by the Supreme Court investigated the cases… Now, what do they want? Scotland Yard?” Mr. Rohatgi asked.

Mr. Rohatgi said entertaining the plea would mean putting the clock back by 20 years.

He said the allegations of a “larger conspiracy” was baseless. The role of every accused was looked into by the SIT. Accusations of “collaboration” by SIT were reckless, Mr. Rohatgi had submitted.

“There is no material to conclude that there was any other conspiracy than the cases that are being tried,” the senior advocate had argued.

In an earlier hearing, the apex court had observed that its September 12, 2011 order had merely directed the SIT to “look into” the material brought forth by Ms. Jafri and file a final report before the magistrate court concerned in Gujarat.

The Bench had even said the September 2011 order appeared to restrict itself to the Gulberg Society case, which involved the killing of Ms. Jafri’s husband by a mob and not any “larger conspiracy”.

Following the apex court order in 2011, the SIT had gone on to file a closure report in February, 2012. It had given a clean chit to then Chief Minister Narendra Modi and 63 others, including senior officials, saying there was “no prosecutable evidence” against them. A “protest petition” filed by Ms. Jafri against the clean chit was dismissed by the magistrate. The Gujarat High Court too, in October 2017, refused to entertain Ms. Jafri, who had moved the apex court.

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