By putting its seal on the closure report of the special investigation team (SIT), the Supreme Court has foiled the conspiracy to implicate Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Gujarat riots, ending the over two decades long efforts to “fix” Modi.
In the past 15 years, the NGO brigade virtually tried to make use of every forum of the court to achieve their goals, which even the Supreme Court mentioned in the judgment.
The court criticised some “frustrated officials” of the Gujarat government who were part of the conspiracy and praised those officers of the SIT, who did find even an iota of truth after the investigation into the charges levelled against Modi and braved the criticism solidly.
It has been more than 20 years since the Godhra incident. Most of the people implicated in these riots have already been sentenced.
But a conspiracy to implicate Modi using it as a weapon has finally been put to rest by the SC.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar rejected the special leave petition of Zakia Jafri in which the petitioner had sought filing of cases against many leaders of Gujarat, including Modi, in connection with the riots. The court praised the work of the SIT which has investigated nine big cases related to the Gujarat riots and also investigated the complaint filed by Jafri. The court found the closure report true. However, after not getting a judgment they wished, the petitioners raised fingers at the integrity of the SIT members.
In its judgment running into 452 pages, the Supreme Court said: “Despite the humungous task undertaken by the members of the SIT with sincerity, objectivity and dispassionately including to the satisfaction of this Court in all these cases, the argument of the appellant was bordering on undermining the integrity and sincerity of the members of the SIT. Needless to underscore that the SIT came to be constituted by this Court of experienced senior officials with proven ability of investigating complex offences. Therefore, we find such submission as not only far-fetched and an attempt to undo and undermine the industry of the SIT in having thoroughly investigated all the nine (9) sets of cases assigned to it by this Court, but also in the nature of questioning the wisdom of this Court. Hence, the assail of the appellant needs to be stated to be rejected. While observing sobriety, we say no more.
While parting, we express our appreciation for the indefatigable work done by the team of SIT officials in the challenging circumstances they had to face and yet, we find that they have come out with flying colours unscathed. At the end of the day, it appears to us that a coalesced effort of the disgruntled officials of the State of Gujarat alongwith others was to create sensation by making revelations which were false to their own knowledge. The falsity of their claims had been fully exposed by the SIT after a thorough investigation. Intriguingly, the present proceedings have been pursued for last 16 years (from submission of complaint dated 8.6.2006 running into 67 pages and then by filing protest petition dated 15.4.2013 running into 514 pages) including with the audacity to question the integrity of every functionary involved in the process of exposing the devious stratagem adopted (to borrow the submission of learned counsel for the SIT), to keep the pot boiling, obviously, for ulterior design. As a matter of fact, all those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law."
This part of the SC’s judgment is enough to indicate how conspiracies were hatched to target Modi. Even the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had alleged that the Congress and the Left were involved in this conspiracy, which was making use of the court platform through the NGO brigade as they could not win the battle against Modi on the electoral battlefield. They wanted to settle their score with Modi and stop him. They wished to get Modi into a legal trap, and stop him from reaching Delhi.
THE CONSPIRACY BEGINS
The conspiracy took off soon after the 2002 Gujarat riots. Holding Modi responsible for it, all opposition parties, including the Congress, started pressuring the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government at the Centre to remove Narendra Modi from the post of the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
But it did not work. Modi had public support in Gujarat. Even during the BJP’s national executive in Goa, the BJP stood with Modi in solidarity. Although Modi had offered to resign, it was rejected. At the meeting, Vajpayee came down heavily on the unrest created by the jihadi terrorism the world over.
Modi made the Gujarat assembly elections in December 2002 a fight for Gujarat’s pride and sought a mandate against parties that defamed Gujarat. The people of Gujarat sent the party to the Assembly with a thumping majority. After this, Modi’s popularity graph continued its upward march. Even though the Vajpayee government was defeated in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, it only added to Modi’s stature.
In 2004, the Congress-led UPA came to power at the Centre. With this, the campaign to entrap Modi started once again. The Gujarat riot cases were fanned. NGOs run by Teesta Setalvad, Harsh Mander and Shabnam Hashmi got the support of the UPA government. These people found a place in Sonia Gandhi’s National Advisory Council. Organisations belonging to them got grants from the government and senior leaders of the Congress, who are also high-profile advocates of the country, were asked to assist them. A political party even proposed to send a high-profile activist to the Rajya Sabha if he succeeded in trapping Modi!
ZAKIA JAFRI’s ALLEGATIONS
With this scale of preparation and such intentions, Zakia Jafri was asked to come to the front in 2006. Jafri is the wife of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri who was killed in the fire in Gulbarg Society during the Gujarat riots. The police had already registered an FIR regarding the Gulbarg Society incident on February 28, 2002 and the investigation was going on.
Jafri lodged a complaint with then DGP of Gujarat PC Pandey on 8, June 2006. In her complaint, she alleged that the 2002 Gujarat riots were the result of a wider conspiracy and she named 62 people, including Modi, in this conspiracy. Those named in this petition also included some ministers in Modi’s government, officials, and other leaders.
PC Pandey handed over the investigation of this complaint to one of his subordinate officers. When the officer called Jafri to seek further information regarding the petition, she refused to come, but insisted that until an FIR was not filed, she would not appear before the police officer to provide any information.
Jafri then moved the Gujarat High Court. After a hearing, Justice MR Shah dismissed Jafri’s petition. By then, Setalvad had also joined Jafri through her organization, Citizens for Justice and Peace. Setalvad had already named Modi in many cases related to the Gujarat riots.
Jafri then filed a petition alleging wider conspiracy in the riots on December 18, 2007, in which Modi was targeted. The SC constituted an SIT under former CBI Director RK Raghavan to probe major cases of the Gujarat riots. This SIT was also handed over the investigation of the complaint filed by Jafri.
Raghavan handed over the investigation of the complaint to AK Malhotra as an officer from outside the state had to carry out the probe.
Jafri’s 67-page complaint, according to Malhotra, was not clear and requested that some of the officers who were accused earlier be treated as witnesses, as Jafri knew they were not in the good books of the Modi government.
Malhotra, who retired as a DIG from the CBI, joined the SIT in May 2009 and started a formal inquiry into the complaint. He even questioned Narendra Modi for about 13 hours in the SIT office on March 27, 2010. At that time, it had been more than eight years since Modi was the CM of Gujarat and after 2002, he had also won the 2007 assembly elections with a thumping majority. Three days before Modi was questioned, Amit Shah, who was then the Minister of State for Home in the Modi government in Gujarat, was also interrogated. PK Mishra was also questioned about who was the Principal Secretary to CM Modi when the riots happened. He is the Principal Secretary to PM Modi now.
After a prolonged inquiry and investigation, the SIT submitted its report to the Supreme Court on May 12, 2010. The Supreme Court handed over this report to Prashant Bhushan, who was the amicus curiae in the matter. Bhushan was also accused of leaking that report of the SIT. His relationship with the NGO brigade was known. Raju Ramachandran was made the new amicus curiae in this case. At his behest, IPS officer Himanshu Shukla conducted a further investigation on some points in the matter.
On September 12, 2011, the Supreme Court, while accepting the SIT’s report, directed that the investigation report be handed over for further action to the Ahmedabad court which had earlier taken cognisance of the Gulbarg Society case. Under this, Shukla, on behalf of the SIT in Metropolitan Court No. 11 of Ahmedabad city, submitted the closure report on February 8, 2012, stating no case is made out against any accused, including Modi.
The closure report of the SIT was fiercely opposed and a protest petition was filed against it. After a long hearing, the Metropolitan Court of Ahmedabad accepted the closure report of the SIT on December 26, 2013 and rejected the protest petition. By then, Modi had also become the BJP’s PM candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections as he had already won three consecutive assembly elections under his leadership in Gujarat.
Modi’s opponents were not happy with this. If they managed to get Modi sentenced to two years imprisonment by a court of law, he could not contest any election as per the Representation of the People Act.
Under this strategy, those who wanted Modi to be implicated once again knocked the doors of the Gujarat High Court. The hearing continued and in the meantime, Modi became the Prime Minister of the country. After a prolonged hearing in the Gujarat High Court, Justice Sonia Gokani dismissed the petition of Jafri and Setalvad on October 5, 2017. She found no merit in it.
They could have approached the Supreme Court within 90 days. But Jafri went to the SC after 216-day delay. Jafri and Setalvad filed their appeal in the Supreme Court on September 11, 2018. This special leave petition was filed challenging the decision of the High Court. This time, veteran Congress leader and advocate Kapil Sibal represented Jafri in the Supreme Court, while Mukul Rohatgi stood for the Gujarat government. But the intention was to raise a hue and cry before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
#BREAKING | #GujaratRiots | HM Amit Shah On #GujaratRiots2002: The riots were politically motivated. There were a certain group of individuals in NGOs and in the media who were propagating the lies around the riots.Join the broadcast with @Runjhunsharmas pic.twitter.com/HTHvsif0GY
— News18 (@CNNnews18) June 25, 2022
Although a petition was filed in the SC, instead of holding an early hearing, there were repeated requests to defer the hearing and this continued for two years. Due to this, the SC finally said that from October 26, 2021, the matter will be heard thrice a week. After the Diwali holiday, the hearing resumed and continued till December 9, 2021. After that, a bench headed by Justice Khanwilkar reserved the decision as the documents pertaining to cross-examination were too long.
After a wait of almost six months, the SC gave its verdict.
When the Metropolitan Court of Ahmedabad accepted the closure report of the SIT on December 26, 2013, Modi wrote a long blog post titled ‘Satyamev Jayate'(Truth Triumphs). After nine years, when once again the SC has put its seal of approval on his innocence, he has not even taken note of it.
Modi has now risen much above these conspiracies and allegations. After Gujarat, he earned his name in the country and also outside the country.
Yes, the BJP definitely targeted the Congress and the Left parties for the part they played in this act, but merely as a formality.
As the ancient saying goes: ‘Satyamev Jayate!’