The Gujarat High Court has appointed additional sessions judge B. J. Dhandha as judge of the special court for the trial of the Gulberg Society massacre case of 2002. He replaces B. U. Joshi, who has been transferred to the sessions court in Himmatnagar.
Mr. Joshi, along with about a dozen judicial officers, was shifted last month but following Law Department intervention all transfers were stayed for some time. While the High Court later cancelled the transfer of Jyotsnaben Yagnik and reinstated her as the special judge to hear the Naroda-Patiya massacre case, the presiding judge of the Gulberg Society case was changed.
Opposition from the start
Right from the beginning, Mr. Joshi had been facing opposition from some witnesses and victims who, helped by Teesta Setalvad, general secretary of the Citizens for Justice and Peace, filed petitions in the sessions court and later in the High Court, accusing him of being “biased” against the victims. Some of the victims also complained that Mr. Joshi was favouring the accused in the open court and “humiliating” some of the witnesses to force them to change their versions in favour of the accused. The complaints even reached the Supreme Court, which for some time stayed the special courts from delivering the final judgment.
Mr. Dhandha had been hearing the Naroda-Patiya case for about a month before Ms. Yagnik was reinstated. During the same time, the Gulberg Society case trial court was presided over by the Naroda Gam massacre trial special court judge, S. H. Vora, as additional charge. The hearing in the Gulberg Society case, in which 67 persons have been named accused, has almost reached the final stage as have most other massacre cases. All the three massacres occurred in Ahmedabad during the communal riots in Gujarat post-Godhra train fire in 2002.