The Supreme Court Tuesday asked a special panel probing the 2002 Gujarat riots to respond to allegations that it withheld crucial evidence on the role of senior politicians and police officers in fomenting violence.
A bench of Justice D.K. Jain, Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Aftab Alam asked Special Investigation Team (SIT) chief R.K. Raghavan to submit his written response to the court within two weeks and adjourned the matter till March 15.
The bench sought Raghavan’s reply after Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium read out the Sep 7 order of an Ahmedabad metropolitan magistrate seeking material of evidentiary value from the probe panel within a month by Oct 8.
Subramanium read out the magistrate’s order to the apex court bench saying the fact that the court had to pass a judicial order seeking all the material from the probe panel showed its reluctance in submitting the same to the court on its own.
Various evidentiary material that the metropolitan magistrate had sought included phone call records of senior police officers and politicians during the state-wide riots in the aftermath of the Godhra train burning incident.
The other material that the court sought included original entries relating to riotous incidents, made in the case dairies of various police stations and police control room log books.
Subramanium read out the metropolitan magistrate’s order in support of civil rights activist Teesta Setalvad’s plea to the apex court for reconstitution of the SIT on the grounds that many police officers working for it were from the Gujarat police and were suspected of not conducting the probe properly.
The bench sought Raghavan’s response to the plea on a suggestion by senior counsel Harish Salve, who had specially been appointed by the court to assist in adjudicating matters related to the Gujarat riots.
Appearing for Setalvad, advocate Kamini Jaiswal, however, expressed distrust of even Salve, saying in another matter related to post Godhra communal carnage, he represented the state government.
The probe panel had been formed by the apex court March 26, 2008 and was asked to probe nine specific Gujarat riots cases which included those of rape, murder and arson in Ahmedabad and elsewhere, such as those at Godhra, Gulbarg Society, Naroda Patiya, Best Bakery, Baranpura, Machipith, Tarsali, Raghovpura and Pandarwada.
At least 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, are believed to have been killed in the Gujarat violence.