Modi and 62 others face investigation for mass
BY TEESTA SETALVAD
Almost three years
ago, on June 8, 2006, a mammoth 119-page complaint was sent by Zakiya
Ahsan Jaffri to the then director general of police (DGP), Gujarat, PC Pande,
who, ironically, is listed as accused number 29 in the document. The legal
action group, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), through its secretary and
trustee, Teesta Setalvad, had provided her with legal assistance in assimilating
the material required for the historic exercise, which took over five months to
draft. Although token gestures were made by the Gujarat police – the DGP sent
the additional director general of police (ADGP), Mahapatra, to meet the
complainant – despite 2,000 pages of devastating evidence, the Gujarat DGP saw
nothing prima facie of incriminatory substance in the complaint.
Eight months after the Gujarat police refused, in spite of clear
directives in law and practice, to register a first information report (FIR) and
investigate the offences, the complainant and CJP jointly filed a petition in
the Gujarat high court praying for directions from the court ordering the state
police to register an FIR and investigate the complaint. The petition also
argued for an independent investigation by the CBI since top echelons of the
police hierarchy in the state were personally involved in the crimes that were
alleged to have been committed. Advocates MM Tirmizi and MS Ganesh argued the
matter over two days in September 2007 while advocate general, Kamal Trivedi,
for the Gujarat government, strongly resisted the petitioners’ arguments. A week
before judgement was delivered the petitioners had through an additional
affidavit argued for the transcripts of the Tehelka exposé following its
sting ‘Operation Kalank’ (made public on October 25, 2007) to be treated as
extrajudicial confessions in the matter of the overarching criminal conspiracy
and investigated. In November 2007 the Gujarat high court rejected both the
petition and the affidavit.
Months later the petitioners filed a special leave petition in
the apex court challenging the high court order. On March 3, 2008 – the first
date of hearing – the apex court not only issued notice to the state and union
but also appointed counsel, Prashant Bhushan, as amicus curiae to assist
the court. Recognising the specificity and enormity of the complaint, the
Supreme Court had observed, "What does a citizen do when it has such voluminous
evidence and the police simply refuses to investigate? What is the remedy
available for a citizen?"
After the usual logistical delays the matter was ultimately
heard on April 27, 2009. By then the Supreme Court had also, on March 26, 2008,
directed the appointment of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by former
CBI director, Dr RK Raghavan, to not only reinvestigate the eight other major
trials but to oversee prosecution of the accused in these trials as well.
Acknowledging the worth and magnitude of this complaint, the
Supreme Court, in a historic move, ordered the SIT to investigate the
allegations and submit a report to the apex court within three months. Advocates
Aparna Bhat, Ramesh Pukhrambam, MS Ganesh and Sanjay Parikh appeared for the
petitioners during the proceedings in the Supreme Court.
Of the 63 persons named as accused in this complaint, 12 are
politicians who were, in 2006, holding the rank of cabinet ministers in the
state cabinet. Four of these 12, including Narendra Modi, the chief minister
himself (who also holds several cabinet portfolios, including home, transport,
industry and information and broadcasting), Amit Shah (minister of state for
home), Indravijaysinh K. Jadeja (minister for roads and buildings) and
Prabhatsinh Chauhan (minister of state for tribal development), continue in
positions of power and authority. Ashok Bhatt, minister for law and judiciary
until 2007, is currently the speaker of the state assembly.
Of the remaining accused, three are MLAs from the ruling
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), seven are office-bearers of the state BJP, Vishwa
Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal (including Dr Praveen Togadia,
international general secretary of the VHP), 10 are officials of the Indian
Administrative Service (IAS) and 28 are Indian Police Service (IPS) officers.
Accused number 23 in the complaint, Keshavram Kashiram Shastri,
former chairman of the VHP’s Gujarat unit and editor of the Vishwa Hindu
Samachar, published from Paldi, Ahmedabad, is dead. He had in the now
infamous interview given to rediff.com in March 2002 proudly claimed a badge of
honour for himself and his organisation, for the selective loot and destruction
of Muslim lives and properties. "Karvunj pade, karvunj pade (It had to be
done, it had to be done). We don’t like it but we were terribly angry. Lust and
anger are blind." He had also outlined in graphic detail how VHP and Bajrang Dal
workers had been provided with ownership details of key properties and
establishments, which made their task of selectively targeting Muslim-owned ones
As we go to press, the SIT begins this historic investigation, a
first of its kind. Interestingly, the complaint of June 8, 2006 also lists a
dozen or so witnesses in order to facilitate investigation. These witnesses are
all from the Gujarat state IAS and IPS cadres. The material submitted as primary
evidence along with the complaint includes affidavits and depositions by police
officials that contain startling revelations made before the Nanavati-Shah-Mehta
Commission of Inquiry.
List of witnesses:
1. KC Kapoor; in 2006, principal secretary (home).
2. Manoj D. Antani; in 2002, superintendent of police (SP),
3. AS Gehlot; in 2002, SP, Mehsana.
4. Vivek Srivastava; in 2002, SP, Kutch.
5. Himanshu Bhatt; in 2002, SP, Banaskantha.
6. Piyush Patel; in 2002, deputy commissioner of police,
7. Maniram; in 2002, ADGP (law and order).
8. Vinod Mall; in 2002, SP, Surendranagar.
9. Sanjiv Bhatt; in 2002, SP (security), State Intelligence
10. Jayanti Ravi; in 2002, Collector, Panchmahal.
11. Neerja Gotru; in 2003, special investigating officer
assigned to reopen investigations in some riot-related cases.
12. Rahul Sharma; in 2002, SP, Bhavnagar.
13. RB Sreekumar; in 2002, ADGP