Written by: Shivangi Arora (Intern)
Edited by: Anubhav Yadav (Content Head & Developer)
The Apex Court on 26th of October began hearing a petition filed by Zakia Jafri against the Clean-Chit granted to then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi by SIT (Special Investigation Team). The petitioner Zakia Jafri is the widow of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri who was slain at the Gulbarg Society Massacre, arguably the worst episode during the Gujarat Riots of 2002.
The background of the case could be traced to the infamous Gujarat Riots of 2002. On the 27th of February 2002, a few coaches of the train returning from Ayodhya was burnt in Godhra, Gujarat in which 58 Hindu Karsevaks (Pilgrims) died. This turned out to be the immediate cause of the inter-communal violence as cited in the investigation record. An extensive number of cases relating to rioting, loot, murder, rape and property destruction was reported. The then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi, other ministers of the state and some government officers were accused in case of inciting and fuelling the violence and for not taking adequate and timely measures to counter the situation.
In 2008, the Supreme Court constituted Special Investigation Team (SIT) which was a three-member team headed by RK Raghavan. On 8th February 2012, the SIT gave a clean chit to Narendra Modi along with other 63 accused Ministers of the then Government and other senior government officers on the ground that there was no “prosecutable evidence” against them in its closure report. After that SIT has been constantly blamed for suppressing the shreds of evidence and several petitions were filed in the wake of this in 2013. But an Indian court rejected all the petitions demanding Narendra Modi’s prosecution and upheld the SIT’s investigation. In 2014, the Supreme Court also expressed satisfaction over the investigation conducted by the SIT and upheld its findings.
In 2017, the petitioner Zakia Jafri filed a petition in the Magistrate court challenging the Closure Report of SIT which was rejected. She claimed that rejection of her plea was based on “unsustainable merits”. She further approached the Gujarat High Court for the same but High Court on October 5 2017 also rejected the petition. The current petition in Supreme Court is the Special Leave Petition filed in 2018.
The petition under the case name Zakia Ahsan Jafri & Anr. Petitioner(s) vs. The State of Gujarat & Anr. Respondent (s) which is being heard by the division bench comprising of Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, Justice C.T. Ravikumar. On 5th October 2021, the bench headed by Justice Khanwilkar made it clear that no request of further adjournment for the dates will be accounted for at the instance of the petitioner and the bench would start hearing from 26th of October 2021.
On October 26th, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal appearing before the bench for the petitioner highlighted that their case is not just limited to the Gulbarg Society massacre case rather it revolves around pinning the incompetency of the political and bureaucratic structure of the time when riots took place. On the 12th of November, the petitioner Zakia Jafri demanded the probe on the findings of SIT. The SIT is being represented by the Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi. The court is hearing the contentions of both parties and is yet to decide on the matter.