No bail for Godhra accused
January 17, 2008
Once more a serious denial of basic fundamental rights has been caused
today by the delay caused by either insensitive or unaccountable listing
procedures of the registry of the apex court of India, the Supreme
As a result, 84 of those allegedly accused of the Godhra train burning
(one of whom is near hundred per cent blind) have been denied their
personal liberty for six years. Bail is the fundamental prerequisite
inalienable fundamental right to any and every accused under
Indian criminal law and civilized form of jurisprudence. Even draconian
anti-terror laws that are severely contested because they vest untested
powers on the police and executive, do not ever condone custody for such
a long time.
Here's the Chronology of the Godhra Bail Matters before the Supreme
Court (Yesterday's Backgrounders sent outlined the trajectory of the
Godhra cases and pointed out that the Gujarat High Court, has,
shockingly not entertained any bail matter after October 2004.
22.2.07. Through an order of outgoing SC Judge Justice BP Singh, the SC
ruled that the Godhra accused could fie bail applications before the SC.
The matter being considered was the Report of the Central POTA Review
Committee that had held that the provisions of the POTA legislation
could not be applied to the Godhra case.
10.4.2007 Bail applications are filed in the SC
9.4.2007. Matter is listed by the Registry but not heard because the
Court is hearing the All India Judges Association Matter. Plus the
summer vacation is after two days. The SC thus directs hat the bail
applications should be listed for " final disposal" on 18.7.2007 after
the vacation. What happens after these directions? After the vacation
and on SC's reopening on 18.7.2007, there is no sign of the matter.
First week of August 2007. The matter is again listed on a miscellaneous
day at which point, accused reps and counsel travelling at their own
cost from Godhra again point out to the court that this matter must be
listed on a non-miscellaneous day so final arguments can be completed.
For two and a half to three months no matters are listed as Judges are
sitting on the Constitution Bench. Thereafter though matters are shown
as pending on the SC list o November 18-19 they are not listed by the
21.11.2007 Matter is again mentioned by legal reps of the bail accused
after which Court asks Registry to list.
First Week of December 2007. Again Bail Matters that are clubbed with
POTA Review Committee Matter are listed on a miscellaneous day which
means that arguments an never be completed.
12.12.2007. Matters are shown as listed before the Chief Justice and
Panchal. Hence again reps of bail accused mention the matter on
11.12.2007 pointing out that since Justice Panchal hails from Gujarat
and his brother is a Public Prosecutor for the state of Gujarat, the
matter could not be before him. The Court agrees. Again, what does the
12.12.2007. Fully knowing the circumstances behind which the matter had
been mentioned on 11.11.2007, the Registry still lists the matter before
Justices Agrawal and Singhvi. (Justice Singhvi had heard the POTA REVIEW
COMMITTEE matter earlier and hence would face similar issues as Justice
Panchal). Sure enough, the next day Justice Singhvi says " not before
me." One more chance to argue the matter and get bail for the victims is
12.12.2007. Agitated, the reps of the bail accused mention the matter
again the same afternoon before the Chief pointing out this repeated
problem from the registry. The CJ directs that the matter should be
mentioned in the second week of January after which he would constitute
a special three judge bench and list it for the third week of January.
17.1.2008 Unmindful it appears of the CJ's order, the Registry lists
it on Thursday which may be a non miscellaneous day but which also means
that arguments will spill over to the following week. In the first
instance the matter is shown as listed before Justices Bhan, Sinha and
Mathur. Late the evening before, that is on Wednesday 16.1.2007 it is
shown as appearing before the CJ, Ravindran and Panchal. What does it
mean that the Registry again lists it before a Judge who cannot hear the
matter. On 17.1.2008 Once again, the CJ says it would be posted next
week or at the earliest. Personal liberty is denied and no questions ae
asked as to what is going on within the Registry of the highest court in
Can no questions be asked about the systems in operation in the Supreme
Court of India?
Which matters get automatic priority and which do not?
Which matters suffer because of the delays and interim orders of the
Is there no prioritization of cases where issues of personal liberty,
denial of basic fundamental rights, mass crimes and impunity to the rich
and powerful is concerned?
If we can ask no questions, we will receive no answers.
The time has come to question the basic accountability procedures of the
highest court in the land.
Has the Supreme Court of India lost its soul and is it turning a blind
eye to cases related to fundamental rights violations?
If so, where then do we turn?