Sunday, March 28, 2010

Legal Battle likely over SIT next month

Next month will see high pitched legal battle when Special Investigating Team will submit its report to the Supreme Court. After recording the statement of Gujarat Chief Minister, now SIT team has to sit and assemble together all evidences in meaningful sequence.
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The media trial of 2002 riots post train burning incident of Godhra is hurting the Special Investigation Team. SIT will submit its report to the apex court by 30th April. But before that pressure tactics to delay the trial have begun. Two questions are being raised whether Narendra Modi would be called again for interrogation and FIR against him would be filed.

SIT chief Mr R.K. Raghavan in an interview to a news channel said,” It is a very big step forward in trying to understand and unravel quite a few mysteries in the matter...I am happy that we were able to get the CM for questioning. I have to appreciate the evidence."

He declined to disclose the details of questions posed to the chief minister, but said that they were broadly pertained to the issues raised by Ms Jaffrey, widow of former Congress M.P. Ehsan Jaffrey, in her petition.

The petition filed by Ms Jaffrey accuses Mr Modi and 61 others, including some of his cabinet colleagues, of conspiracy in the violence at Gulbarg Society, a housing colony in Ahmedabad where they used to live.

Among other things, they are accused of instructing policemen and officials to not respond to the frantic pleas for help from Mr Jaffrey and others after a mob attacked the residential area, trapping them inside.

The witnesses in this case have wide gaps in their statements from 2002 till date. Soon after the massacre a dozen muslim witnesses told the police that Jaffrey had fired in self defence. In this firing a rioter was killed and 14 others were injured. They had said that this had let the mob attack Muslims with vengeance.

One Imtiaz Pathan told SIT that Mr Jaffrey had made phone calls to Modi, who instead of providing help had abused. Incidentally, there are no call records available to establish this charge. One of the witness in Naroda Patiya case has gone on records of saying that false charges in the affidavits were added under the pressure of Teesta Setalwad’s NGO.

Many claims of media and NGOs might get jolt after the report of SIT will be submitted to the supreme court at the end of the next month. To safe guard their interests Citizens for Justice and Peace and some other voluntary organizations , have started for expressing doubts about the SIT's style of functioning. Ms Setalvad had even filed a petition in the Supreme Court demanding reconstitution of the SIT.

Filing of FIR against the Chief Minister would need substantiate evidences. When this question was asked to Mr Raghavan, he declined to comment. The SIT's job was to “present our findings to the Supreme Court and then await its directions,” he said.

"I must have a good look at what has been collected in terms of evidence. I must appreciate evidence then possibly remit it for legal opinion and then finalise my report to the Supreme Court. Deadline is April 30th and I'm reasonably confident that I'll beat the deadline," he said.
SIT trial of Gujarat Minister will have long lasting impact on the politics of Gujarat. Narendra Modi was questioned for long nine hours in front of camera. There are speculations on what was recorded.
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Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi set another record by becoming the first in-office CM to be questioned in a criminal complaint of mass murder by the Special Investigating Team constituted by the Supreme Court of India. The questioning lasted 9 hours in two rounds.

None of the three officers from Gujarat on SIT were present during the questioning session. Even SIT chairman R.K. Raghavan monitored the happenings from from the police officers' mess in Ahmedabad, The “one-to-one” in-camera questioning session was headed by A.K. Malhotra, retired DIG of the CBI. He is also the investigating officer in Zakia Jaffrey’s complaint against Narendra Modi and 62 others in connection with the 2002 communal riots in the State.

After the SIT trial there are many speculations moving around. Will this bring an end to the media trials or would lead to filing of the FIR by SIT? This will all depend on the preliminary investigation based on the replies recorded by Narendra Modi.

Mr. Modi was not aided by a lawyer when he reached to the SIT office. Arun Jetelly, BJP leader and supreme court lawyer had a meeting with the Chief Minister between the two rounds of interrogations. After the first round in the evening he spoke to media persons briefly. He reiterated that his appearance was a stunning reply to those vested interests groups who were spreading canards against him. He hoped that his appearance before the SIT would end this.

Apparently hitting out at some of his critics who had earlier alleged that the Gujarat cadre IPS officers in the SIT were “maneuverable,” Mr. Modi said none of the three State cadre IPS officers, who were members of the SIT, was present during the questioning. He pointed out that the SIT was appointed by the Supreme Court and was functioning directly under its supervision.

Mr. Malhotra did not speak to any media person after the trial, however the TV channels gave the numbers of the questions shot to the CM to be 68 out of which he replied 62 in the first round. In case if the Modi has not been able to rebut any of the allegations in the course of his examination, SIT could recommend the FIR in its report. If an FIR opens up the possibility of Modi being questioned afresh to record his statement under Section 161 CrPC.

Three activists Teesta Setalwad, Mukul Sinha and Fr. Cedric Prakash with the support of certain group of media have been successful in pressurizing the investigating process and keeping the issue alive. Their roles and intentions have not received much acceptance here in Gujarat, but outside Gujarat these are influential groups.

After the constitution of the SIT by the Apex court to get the like minded officers Teesta has been filing cases in the Supreme Court for various causes. One of the SIT member Shivanand Jha is named as accussed in the riot cases. She has appealed the apex court to reconstitute the team. The petition is due for admission.

She is the main force in bringing all the witnesses including the widow of Ehsan Jafri together. The future of this proceeding will also rewrite the equations in Gujarat politics which is centered around Narendra Modi today.

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