-The Indian Express
The SIT was set up to clear the path for justice in Gujarat. Instead, it trips on itself
Ten years after the riots in Gujarat, many answers are still to be wrenched out of the system. However, the judiciary has shown its determination to ensure a thorough accounting — last month, a judgment on the Ode killings convicted 23 people. The Supreme Court, in particular, has taken extraordinary measures to make sure that the legal process remains untouched by powerful interests. In 2008, responding to the petition of Zakia Jafri and the NHRC, it went out of its way to set up a special investigation team to examine nine of the most critical cases in the 2002 violence. This SIT, headed by a former CBI director, conducted exhaustive investigations, and submitted its report to the SC. However, the court, not fully satisfied, asked amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran to conduct his own investigations, and fill in some of the gaps in the report.
Now, the situation remains fraught as ever. The SIT’s findings, which exonerate Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi of any complicity in the riots, clash with the amicus curiae’s report, which says he could be prosecuted under 153A, for promoting enmity between different religious groups and 153B, for making assertions against the national interest. According to the SIT, even if Modi did say, “within the four walls of a room”, that Hindus should be allowed to vent their anger, it does not constitute an offence. This startling conclusion defies logic — how can a statement allegedly made by a chief minister to his top brass in a tense situation be brushed aside with such ease? This when the SIT’s final report contradicts its own preliminary findings — based on DIG A.K. Malhotra’s report — about Modi’s attitude after the riots. These are not minor differences. The entire edifice of justice for 2002 hinges on these interpretations. The SIT was set up by the Supreme Court to find answers, insulated from all pressures and fears. The SIT’s glaring contradictions and lazy logic do little justice to the spirit in which it was set up making closure seem farther away than ever.