SC accepts NHRC plea
By Our Legal Correspondent
A three-judge Bench comprising the Chief Justice, B.N. Kirpal, K.G. Balakrishnan and Arijit Pasayat agreed with the Solicitor-General, Harish Salve, that there was a substantive question of law involved in it and that the matters be transferred to the apex court and ordered the transfer.
The Bench called for the records from the respective courts and directed the Registry to fix the matter for further hearing after the receipt of the records.
In July last, the NHRC had taken suo motu cognisance of the manner of arrest of Mr. Karunanidhi and called for a report from the Tamil Nadu Government. The State Government, however, took the matter to the High Court questioning the NHRC's intervention when the State had set up a Commission of Inquiry and the matter was pending in the High Court.
The NHRC initiated suo motu proceedings against the Gujarat Government following large-scale violence in wake of the Godhra train carnage and sought a report regarding steps taken to prevent further violence.
After the Gujarat Government appointed a Commission of Inquiry, a petition was filed in the High Court questioning the NHRC's jurisdiction.
The NHRC filed a transfer petition in the Supreme Court stating that under Section 12 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, it was empowered to inquire, suo motu or on a petition, into complaints of violation of human rights or abetment thereof, or negligence in the prevention of such violation.
It said that it was inquiring into incidents of alleged violation of human rights in various States and the questions raised in the petitions before the Madras and Gujarat High Courts were bound to arise and they should be settled by the Supreme Court.
Centre ready for CBI probe into Gujarat riots
Author: Indo-Asian News Service
Centre ready for CBI probe into Gujarat riots
Indo-Asian News Service
NEW DELHI, Feb. 18: The Centre has told the Supreme Court that it was willing to have crucial cases of communal carnage in Gujarat in 2002 probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and have them tried outside the state. "The Central government submits it would have no objection to the investigation of the cases by the CBI and transfer outside the state of Gujarat, if so desired by this court," the home ministry told the SC in an affidavit filed last week.
The affidavit was filed days before the hearing slated Tuesday of a bunch of petitions, including those by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and several other public interest lawsuits, seeking a CBI probe into various cases of state-wide communal violence in the wake of a train carnage in Godhra in February 2002. Besides seeking a CBI probe into various cases, the petitions have sought transfer of the trials of some of the cases outside the state. In state-wide violence following the train carnage, at least 1,000 people had died, majority of them from the Muslim community, as the Narendra Modi government was widely criticised for alleged biased handling of the situation.
The cases for which the lawsuits by the NHRC and others have sought a CBI probe included those that took place in Godhra, Ahmedabad's Gulbarga Society, Naroda Patiya, Vadodara's Best Bakery, Baranpura, Machipith, Tarsali, Raghovpura and Pandarwada.
The home ministry in its affidavit quoted the NHRC's finding which said: "There is no doubt in the opinion of this Commission that there was a comprehensive failure on the part of the state government to control the persistent violation of the rights to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the people of the state. "The NHRC has urged that "the critical cases be entrusted to the CBI and that the central government ensure that this is done," reads the affidavit. The home ministry also quoted the NHRC as saying that "in its view, the trials of the cases mentioned in the petition are not likely to take place in a free and fair atmosphere within Gujarat." Expressing its willingness for the transfer of the trial of some cases, the ministry in its affidavit also quoted Mr Justice Arijit Pasayat's April 2004 ruling in the Best Bakery case, in which 14 people had been burnt alive. Mr Justice Pasayat had pointed out several shortcomings on the part of the Gujarat government in conducting the trial of various cases there. Quoting Mr Justice Pasayat's ruling, the ministry said the SC itself had "identified serious deficiencies in the manner the case had been investigated and also the manner in which the proceedings in that case had been conducted in the trial court and in the high court".
“Shift riot cases outside Gujarat” ·
I have not been able to understand the reasons for discrepancies in the suggested SIT in the following reports -
(1) The Court hereby directs the constitution of a SIT comprised of the
1. Mr.Raghavan, Formal Director of the CBI;
3.Rajnish Kumar Rai (1992, IPS);
4.Dr.Neerja Gotru Rao (1993, IPS);
5.A.K.Singh (1985, IPS);
All the officers named above have not been connected in any way with the cases
relating to the riots.
Notify SIT in ten days: court
Second shot at Gujarat justice: SC for special team to probe key riot cases
Tannu Sharma : NEW DELHI, MARCH 25, Wed Mar 26 2008, 00:39 hrs
- See more at: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/second-shot-at-gujarat-justice-sc-for-special-team-to-probe-key-riot-cases/288453#sthash.s9B8iA1t.dpuf
From Shiv Visvanathan's essay on SIT
SIT – Dramatis Personae: An SIT can be read as a script for a play. The choice of actors is critical. In this case the selection of members eventually demanded a split between three insiders and three outsiders. The outsiders were unproblematic but the choice of insiders was distressing. The SIT should be like Caesar’s wife but the eventual choice of members made it appear like Caesar’s harem. Consider the personalities of the three members. First Ashis Bhatia, a career officer. Despite being additional commissioner of police of Surat city, he failed to file an affidavit before the Nanavati Commission. Instead of being punished he gets appointed to succeed D.G. Vanjara, currently in jail for his infamous encounters. Yet, while Bhatia could be tolerable, the next person is an absolute specimen.
In Shivanand Jha, the perpetrator’s accomplice masquerades as an investigator. If Modi wishes to make assurance double sure, the choice is immaculate. Jha is suspected of being hand-in-glove with the regime. He was additional CP-Ahmedabad city (Sec 1) where 500 people died on account of police inaction. As home secretary, he handled the reinvestigation of Narodia Patia and the transfer of the Best Bakery case. Appointments like Jha’s add to the cynicism. How is a man seen as accomplice to murder to guarantee justice? The third member is Geeta Johri. She is facing a spate of enquiries and her husband, a forest officer, is facing departmental proceedings on corruption. This makes her vulnerable to pressure by the regime. The point is not that we are short of good officers. There are, among others, Rageesh Kumar Rai, Neerja Gotru Rao and A.K. Singh, all outstanding officers with unimpeachable integrity. One wonders why they were not considered.
Double bonus for SIT: Gets a pat from apex court, more probe time
Express News Service
Posted: Aug 27, 2008 at 0138 hrs IST
New Delhi, August 26 The panel has been given time till December 31 to submit its reportCommending the work done so far by the Special Investigation Team (SIT), formed to re-investigate the post-Godhra riots, the Supreme Court on Tuesday gave the panel time till December 31 to submit its report.
The praise came from the bench headed by Justice Arijit Pasayat as the five-member SIT placed its preliminary report in a sealed cover.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, who placed the confidential report before the bench, also comprising P Sathasivam and Aftab Alam, sought some more time for the Team to complete its investigations.
“They are doing a good job. Let us give them some more time,”
observed the three-judge bench while acceding to their plea of
Earlier, senior counsel K T S Tulsi, appearing for some of the accused, submitted before the bench that after the court's orders, no court is prepared to hear the bail applications of any of the accused. To this, the bench said, “We have not said anything regarding this.”
Apart from the three-member panel of IPS officers of Gujarat — Geeta Johri, Shivanand Jha and Ashish Bhatia — the team comprises two retired IPS officers from outside the state — former IPS officer of UP cadre C V Satpathy and ex-CBI chief R K Raghavan, who heads the SIT.
The cases under the scanner of the SIT include incidents of gruesome killings of people belonging to the minority communities in places like Godhra, Gulmerg Society, Naroda Gaon, Naroda Patya, Sardarpura and Deepla Darwaza among others.
In 2003, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had filed a petition seeking transfer of the case and trial outside
Gujarat. It had expressed apprehension that it would not be conducted in a fair and transparent manner because of the hostile environment encountered by the witnesses, most of whom had turned hostile due to apparent threats and inducements.
The apex court constituted the SIT on March 25 this year while dealing with the NHRC petitions.
Will SIT probe its own member?
Shivanand Jha, who is in the team probing post-Godhra riots, is an accused in Jafri’s FIR
TIMES NEWS NETWORK Apr 29, 2009
Ahmedabad: Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court to probe 2002 riots could find itself in a spot. Going by the SC’s order of Monday to probe all 63 persons including the Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s role in the Gulbarg Society massacre case, one of the SIT’s members is an accused!
The FIR filed by wife of slain ex-MP Ahsan Jafri, Zakia, before the SC, mentions IPS officer Shivanand Jha as one of the accused, charged of “providing false information on the offence”.
Jha happens to be one of the key members of the SIT headed by former CBI director RK Raghavan, constituted on March 26 last year.
Jha heads the team in the Godhra carnage case where 59 lives were killed and the Ode massacre of Anand district where some NRIs are involved. At least 33 persons died in this massacre. The two other Gujarat officers in SIT are, Geetha Johri, who heads the probe in the Sardarpura, Dipda Darwaja and Prantij case of killing of British nationals, and Ashish Bhatia, who heads the Naroda Patia, Naroda Gam and Gulbarg Society massacres. Jha was recently promoted as additional director general of police.
However, the SIT has probed the Gulbarg massacre case for almost a year and nabbed some 31 accused that were not arrested earlier by the Gujarat police. The local police had arrested 46 persons in this case, but most of them are out on bail.In fact, the issue for SIT is how to go ahead on recent directions particularly after six chargesheets including one by SIT, have been filed in this case in last seven years.
Retired DGP PC Pande, who is also named as one of the prime accused in the case has reportedly been given a clean chit by SIT, going by contents of its report to the SC, which was leaked to the press recently. When the Gulbarg massacre took place on February 28, 2002, killing 68 persons, Jha was holding charge as additional commissioner of police sector 1, while this massacre took place in sector 2.
When contacted, Raghavan told TOI, “I haven’t got a copy of the order, it will take at least 3-4 days, till then I cannot comment”.
JM Suthar, the investigating officer in the Gulbarg case told TOI, “When we are asked to probe the case from a particular angle, we will do it.”
Cellphone records of SIT man details his whereabouts during post-Godhra riots
Vikram Rautela : Ahmedabad, Tue May 05 2009, 00:58 hrsCellphone records accessed by Newsline detail Special Investigation Team (SIT) member Shivanand Jha's movements on February 28, 2002: the day riots broke out post Godhra train carnage. Jha was then the additional commissioner of Ahmedabad police (Sector 1) and used the cellphone number '9825048308'.
Jha's mobile phone records have detailed his location when the riots broke out in areas under his jurisdiction. He has been accused of dereliction of duty and giving false evidence in a petition filed by Zakia Jafri, the widow of slain Congress MP Ehsan Jafri. The Supreme Court has ordered investigation into the role of Narendra Modi and 62 others, including Jha, following this petition by Zakia.
The issue assumes significance as Jha heads the SIT teams that are investigating the Godhra train carnage case of February 27, 2002 and the post-Godhra massacre at Ode in Anand district.
City-based group Jan Sangharsh Manch (JSM) had submitted a detailed analysis of Jha's mobile phone records before the Nanavati Commission. Areas under his jurisdiction had started witnessing riots since the evening of February 27, 2002 and became "uncontrollable" by afternoon the next day. Jha chose to remain in the confines of his office in Shahibaug till 10.49 am on February 28, 2002, as per his phone details.
Jha had received 13 calls and made two outgoing calls from his mobile phone between 00:17:27 hrs and 10:49:46 hrs sitting in his office. His mobile phone tower during this period was the Shahibaug Kedar Tower C 105 near Rajasthan Hospital.
Ellisbridge, Navrangpura and Satellite areas, which were under Jha's jurisdiction, had started witnessing riots since 7.30 pm on February 27, 2002. Records further say that Madhavpura, Shahibaug, Satellite and Sola areas came under riot's grip since 7 am on February 28. SIT chief R K Raghvan refused to comment on the issue.
R.K. RAGHAVAN, chief of the SIT. He has said that the response to the Supreme Court will be filed before the March 15 hearing.
On February 10, the Supreme Court directed the Special Investigation Team (SIT) investigating the 2002 communal riots cases in Gujarat to respond to allegations that it had withheld vital evidence regarding the involvement of senior politicians and top bureaucrats in the riots. The SIT has to file its response before the next hearing in the case, scheduled for March 15.
The development highlights once again the tortuous course of the probe into one of the worst communal carnages in independent India. In fact, the intervention of the Supreme Court led to the setting up of the SIT under R.K. Raghavan, a former Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
But even that happened in March 2008, nearly six years after the bloodbath in the State. This was followed by the May 2009 order stipulating trials under the supervision of the SIT. Barely a year later, a new chapter has been added to the investigations.
The February 10 directive of the Supreme Court has come in the wake of petitions filed by a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and social activists such as Devendra Bhai Pathak and Teesta Setalvad of Citizens for Justice and Peace. They expressed serious concern about the manner in which the trials were proceeding and alleged serious lapses in the progress of the SIT investigation itself. The petitioners alleged that the SIT refused to look into key aspects of further investigation, especially those dealing with mala fide intentions and complicity of state actors. The petitions stated that police witnesses, working directly with the SIT, had turned hostile, much to the shock of the trial court, and that the SIT did not ensure adequate safety for the witnesses. The petitions also pointed out that several people, including Chief Minister Narendra Modi, had not been questioned by the SIT.
Affidavits, which run into 3,000 pages and include those of several riot victims, filed along with the applications of the NGOs and separately, give crucial and detailed information on the handling of the communally charged situation after the Godhra train burning incident. They relate essentially to nine cases being probed by the SIT and cover a variety of facts such as the phone records of policemen and the key perpetrators, locations of officers and statements of witnesses.
The documents emphasise the tacit involvement of top police officers in the carnage and the fact that most of them hold prominent positions in the Gujarat government now. The petitions and the affidavits also assert that the build-up of arsenal, men and arms for the post-Godhra riots has not been investigated sufficiently.
The build-up, according to the petitioners, was exposed in Tehelka’s Operation Kalank and the affidavits of police officers R.B. Sreekumar and Rahul Sharma. The petitions also alleged that the SIT failed to investigate thoroughly the documentary evidence, including phone call records, mobile van records, control room registers, station diary entries and fire brigade registers. A scrutiny of these would have indicated the extent of “pre-planning” that went into the post-Godhra violence, the petitions stated.Highlighting SIT’s lapse
They pointed to the failure to take adequate steps to prevent threats to witnesses and also highlighted the SIT’s lapse in not seeking the cancellation of bail of influential accused persons, who remain free during the trials.
Thematically, the affidavits relate to eight cases concerning incidents and personalities. According to Devendra Bhai Pathak, in the cases relating to the Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gam incidents, in which more than 110 persons were brutally murdered and many women and girls were raped, the SIT has not recorded the statements of 129 witnesses.
Additionally, witnesses referred to the active involvement of Inspector K.K. Mysorewala (now a Superintendent of Police) in ordering police firing on Muslims after discussions with former Minister Mayaben Kodnani, but he has not been arraigned. Incidentally, Maya Kodnani was arrested following investigations by the SIT in the early phases. According to witnesses, Mysorewala is said to have told those seeking protection that there were “instructions/orders from higher authorities not to protect you. There is no order to save Muslims… you have to die today.”
Former Gujarat Minister Mayaben Kodnani and VHP leader Jaydeep Patel, both accused in the Naroda Patiya riot case, outside a court in Ahmedabad in April 2009.
An analysis of calls from Mysorewala’s phone, as reflected in Pathak’s petition and the affidavits, shows that he received a call from Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Jaydeep Patel, who is accused in the Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gam cases. The timing of the call, as recorded, was when the massacre was at its worst, says the petition. Witnesses also recount Special Reserve Police (SRP) officer K.P. Parekh as telling the hapless victims that no one would save them as they had orders from higher authorities to kill them. Parekh has not yet been arraigned.
The infamous case of Babu Bajrangi has also been brought up in the petitions. Pathak’s petition says 15 witnesses named Bajrangi as the leader of a mob that slaughtered 95 people and cut open the abdomen of Kauserbanu and killed her foetus. The SIT has not sought the cancellation of his bail, and he has been allowed to travel abroad. According to the petitioners, 53 witnesses named Suresh Langda Richard Chara as the person who led a mob to kill, rape and burn Muslims. Chara roams free and the SIT has not arraigned him either.
In spite of cries for help, as is evident from the hours and hours of recorded phone records, no help came to the Gulberg Society, where 70 Muslims were burned or hacked to death over a period of 11 hours. Congress Member of Parliament Ahsan Jaffri was one of them. The petitioners said the SIT had failed totally to “inquire/investigate into the circumstances in which repeated calls for police assistance went unheeded”. In this case the SIT has arraigned 25 persons, including Inspector K.G. Erda of the Meghaninagar Police Station, who was in the area at the time of the carnage. The petitions state that Erda’s phone records show that during the hours of the carnage on February 27 and 28, 2002, he made several calls to the police control room, Police Commissioner P.C. Pandey, Joint Commissioner M.K. Tandon and Deputy Commissioner of Police P.B. Gondia.
While the SIT has interrogated Tandon, it has taken little action, say the petitioners. In fact, Tandon admitted to the Nanavati Commission that he was informed that Ahsan Jaffri was in danger. Pandey, the records show, had even visited Jaffri and told him that police protection would be provided. Phone records prove that both Tandon and Pandey were in touch with the police officers in the riot-hit areas. Yet, Jaffri was killed. The petitions point out that there were records to show that Jaffri made nearly 200 calls for assistance. Some of these were to the police control room. At the time, Cabinet Ministers Ashok Bhatt and I.K. Jadeja were in the control room, but no one helped Jaffri.
The case of Shivanand Jha, Assistance Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad, is even stranger. He was in charge of the control room at that time and the needle of suspicion should point to him. But he is a key member of the SIT.
There has been no further investigation by the SIT in the Godhra trial too. The petitioners say the SIT has accepted the investigation carried out by a clearly biased Gujarat Police. The affidavits delve largely into the actions of senior policemen. Many pages are dedicated to location details and phone calls made by the victims. Ahmedabad Police Commissioner Pandey was given a clean chit by the SIT in April last year as he claimed that he was in charge of the bodies of those who died in the Godhra train fire and was unaware of the actual situation in the city. Phone call records indicate that he was very much in touch with police personnel in all the riot-hit areas during the worst hours of the massacre.
Activists such as Teesta Setalvad have said there should be a re-investigation into his partisan role. They wonder why the Police Commissioner was handling dead bodies when the city was burning. Similarly, Tandon’s actions on that day have not been questioned. He visited Naroda Patiya after speaking to Pandey. Once there, he found the crowd restive and so was compelled to order a curfew, at 12.29 p.m. Yet he left the area at 12.33 p.m. without ensuring that it was implemented. Naroda went up in flames soon after.
The petitioners believe that the singular lack of investigation has to be viewed in the context of the fact that the main investigation officers of the SIT – Geeta Johri, Shivanand Jha and Ashish Bhatia – are all Gujarat-cadre officers who were subordinate and answerable to Pandey until recently.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Social activists have pointed out that the SIT did not question several people who allegedly played a role in the riots.
They are also in the service and under the control of the Gujarat government, which for obvious reasons has resisted any form of investigation into the riots. Johri’s role in the Sohrabuddin encounter case was criticised recently by the Supreme Court itself. In the context of all this, Teesta Setalvad and many other activists have demanded the reconstitution of the SIT.
On the overall treatment of the victims, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had filed a petition against the Gujarat government, pointing out that the government was hostile towards them. The manner in which evidence was being recorded and the questionable trial court procedures were also in focus. For instance, the NHRC says that in the Gulberg Society trial it has been noticed that there is a significant change in the manner in which the court is treating the witnesses after four or five crucial witnesses deposed.
In the case of Saeed Khan Pathan, while he was attempting to explain how he was being threatened by the accused, the court refused to record his explanation. Even after his lawyer made a detailed application saying his explanation should be recorded in its entirety, the judge refused to oblige. Three Muslims visiting from the United Kingdom in 2002 were hacked to death by a group of people near Pratij in Gujarat. Two eyewitnesses have turned hostile in this case, too. The petitioners have sought better security measures after a car with shaded windows drove dangerously close to one of them within the court premises.
It remains to be seen how the SIT will respond to the Supreme Court directive. Speaking toFrontline on the phone, its Chairman, R.K. Raghavan, said that the response would be filed before the March 15 hearing. He added that the SIT had responded to many of the issues raised by the petitioners in the note it had given to the amicus curiae.
“Now, the court wants to take a look at our responses directly. It will be placed before the court in a sealed cover. It is up to the court to decide whether to make it public or not,” Raghavan said. Hemantika Wahi, counsel for the Gujarat government, told Frontline that the State government would have no role in preparing the response and it was wholly up to the SIT to draft the response.
Clearly, the court directive has added a qualitative dimension to the Gujarat carnage cases. Whether this will ultimately result in justice for the victims depends on several factors, including the SIT response.
Giving Guj riots probe to CBI a closed chapter, rules SC
Express news service : New Delhi, Wed Feb 10 2010, 08:21 hrs
Reply to complaints, court tells Raghavan
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought the comments of R.K. Raghavan, head of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) investigating the Godhra and post-Godhra communal riot cases in Gujarat, on an application alleging lapses in the probe and seeking reconstitution of SIT.
A Bench of Justices D.K. Jain, P. Sathasivam and Aftab Alam granted him three weeks to file his response.
Devendra Bhai Pathak and other applicants said there were serious concerns at the manner in which trial in seven cases was proceeding, despite SIT presence and supervision. They alleged that SIT refused to look into key aspects of further investigation, especially dealing with mala fide intentions and complicity of state actors. Among the issues were: “Police witnesses, directly working with the SIT, turning hostile to the shock of the trial court which made observations about their conduct after they were declared hostile; [other] witnesses turning hostile, the SIT not ensuring them adequate safety.”The applicants said several people, including Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Secretary Chaturvedi, who were allegedly part of the conspiracy to create communal disturbances, were not questioned by SIT. This amounted to a serious lapse.
Counsel Kamini Jaiswal alleged that SIT was not conducting the investigation properly and said it should be reconstituted. For, three of its members — police officers Geeta Johri, Shivanand Jha and Ashish Bhatia — who had been indicted, could not continue. When she pressed for a CBI probe, Mr. Justice Jain said: “Don’t raise that plea now. That is a closed chapter. The investigation has already progressed and the trial commenced. It will be like putting the back the clock.”
Solicitor-General Gopal Subramaniam, appearing for the Centre, cited instances of SIT not producing evidence before the trial court and said this affected its credibility. When amicus curiae Harish Salve suggested that SIT could take the assistance of Ms. Johri for past investigation, Mr. Justice Alam said, “Our [Supreme Court] observations against her in the Sohrabuddin case cannot be brushed aside.” Mr. Salve said he would have no problem if Ms. Johri was removed from SIT. On the allegation that the SIT chief was not available in Gujarat and his absence hampered the investigations and trial, Mr. Salve said Mr. Raghavan had informed him that he was appointed only to oversee the investigation and hence his constant presence in the State was not required. The Bench listed the case for further hearing on March 15.