The Supreme Court Monday issued notice to the Gujarat government and Nanavati Commission on a plea seeking the summoning of Chief Minister Narendra Modi regarding his role during 2002 riots in the state. A bench of Justice D.K. Jain and Justice Anil R. Dave issued notice on a plea by Amrish N. Patel, of NGO Jan Sangarsh Manch which is agitating for justice to riot victims, challenging the Gujarat High Court order upholding the Nanavati Commissioin’s decision not to summon Modi for questioning on his role during the riots.
The Nanavati Commission is probing 2002 Gujarat riots that engulfed the state in the wake of the Godhra train carnage on in which 59 ‘kar sevaks’ coming from Ayodhya were burnt to death in a fire in S-6 coach of the Sabarmati Express.
The high court, by its Feb 1 order, had rejected the plea by Jan Sangharsh Manch, saying it was up to the Nanavati commission whether it wished to summon a person or not.
Seeking the stay of the high court order, the petition said even after 10 years of its constitution, the panel had not summoned Modi and other ministers of his government against whom statements, depositions and evidences were submitted before it.
“The commission has exercised unreasonable and arbitrary discretion” in refusing to summon Modi and others and had “acted with material irregularity”, it said.
Nanavati Commission, while rejecting JSM’s plea to summon Modi and others, had held that “there exists no material to summon the chief minister and other persons perverse and utterly contrary to the record?”
The high court by rejecting the plea by the petitioner and refusing permission to cross-examine certain key people closely associated with the chief minister’s office at the time of the riots has further added to the impediment in summoning and cross examining these people, the NGO’s plea said.
“When the terms of reference of the commission of enquiry are, by notification and in public interest, specifically expanded to include the role and the conduct of the chief minister of the state of Gujarat, during the riots of 2002, is it not utterly unreasonable and arbitrary for the commission to refuse to summon the chief minister and have him cross examined,” it argued.
The petition wondered if the proceedings of the commission were not vitiated by institutionalised factual bias right from its inception, citing it has not engaged any counsel to represent it before the high court and relied upon the state’s advocate general.