The categorical order by the Apex Court, on 27-4-2009, on the petition by Mrs. Zakia Jafri, W/o Late Ahsan Jafri, the Congress MP killed in the riots and Mrs.Teesta Setalvad, for Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), evoked great hope and expectations in the victims of 2002 genocidal crimes. The Court ordered the SIT “to take steps as required in Law”. Will this order result in delivery of long delayed justice to the sufferers of 2002 carnage or end up in an exercise to cause the least damage to those who conceived, designed, organized, mobilized, prepared and perpetrated the bloodbath on a group of Indian citizens through motivated violent mobs, under the patronage of the state machinery ?
Either of these outcomes is possible. The ball is in the court of the SIT. Incase the SIT is keen to proceed on positive line, it should examine the massive and comprehensive quantum of evidence confirming conspiracy, course and execution of mass crimes and subsequent prolonged and on-going subversion of the Criminal Justice System(CJS), for denying justice to the victims. The evidence in the FIR by Mrs. Jafri graphically portrays a series of circumstances and developments in the form of deliberate and pre-meditated acts of omission and commission by the Chief Minister Narendra Modi and his collaborators and abettors of mass crimes in the bureaucracy, actualizing the bloodbath. There is sufficient prima facie proof in the FIR to testify this.
The first unavoidable step by SIT “as required in law” will be to register an FIR against the accused, in the relevant police station, assume the powers of the Investigating Officer (IO) under chapter 12 of CRPC and commence collection of evidence by invoking all techniques and procedures, viz , interrogation, search, recovery of incriminating material, use of forensic science and so on. The items of evidence, in the FIR, need to be examined by the SIT, point by point and nugget by nugget, for proving or disproving the material therein and draw up the road map towards the final destination of arrest and prosecution of the accused or submission of final report u/s 173 CRPC.
The accused figuring in the Jafri FIR includes the long serving Chief Minister, other Ministers, Assembly Speaker, serving and retired Senior officers, who were/are the hierarchical supervisors of practically all Gujarat Police staff from Addl. DGP Geetha Johari and Shivanand Jha to the constabulary, who are tasked for investigation against their own supervisors. Strangely the authority for performance assessment of these officers, covering even the work regarding the Jafri FIR, is vested with the same departmental bosses, of whom many are accused persons !!!. The recent observations by Apex Court (May 2009), in the case of granting remand to accused of British nationals murder case are illustrative. The Court said “nothing has been pointed out before us “by the SIT” as to why even the bail granted should be cancelled ….. there was no sufficient or cogent material to justify the need for custodial interrogation of the accused”.
Besides, instances of the SIT staff doing the operational work of investigation failing to prevent disappearance of an accused Minister, guarded by a dozen policemen, and later surfacing with anticipatory bail; accused in riots cases in the electoral posts declared as absconders attending meetings of public bodies; failure to collect additional evidence or recover incriminating material even from a few accused taken on remand; inadequate efforts to arrest absconders; and so on prompt one to conclude that many from State police throwing a spanner in the SIT investigation machine remain unchecked. This tendency of the saboteurs would become quite pronounced in the probe against the CM, unless urgent remedial measures are initiated.
Removal of Gujarat police officers in the Jafri FIR from the SIT; freeing of those assisting the SIT from normal police duties and placing them under full control and authority of the Chairman SIT, on pattern of the Election Commission controlling the State officials during the elections; vesting the Chairman with the authority to initiate the Annual Confidential Repot of all officers assisting him in the SIT; move to the Central Govt. to appoint Special Prosecutors to conduct cases investigated by the SIT u/s 24 CRPC; action to permit the complainants of riots cases to keep their lawyers to present their cases alongwith the PPs; induction of officers with integrity and fortitude from outside Gujarat at the cutting edge level of investigation of riots cases, in the ranks of Police Sub Inspector, Inspector and Dy.S.P.; are a few instant exercises imperative for ensuring purposeful and result-oriented investigation of the Jafri FIR.
Press reports indicate that the SIT so far had only informal discussions with the complainants. Neither their FIR was verified, nor statements recorded, nor fresh FIR registered in the Police station. Informal interaction is not recognized by the CRPC as part of enquiry or investigation. Thus one can deem that the action on Jafri FIR, on the Apex Courts orders, before a month, remains a non-starter. This fact throws up signals of despair and anguish for carnage victims.
Indications are that the highly placed accused in the Jafri FIR are moving to ensure that the SIT will do sheer enquiry and not investigation on the Court orders and submit a report by July 2009. They, then, plan to contest adverse references, if any, in the SIT report and thereby avoid possibility of criminal prosecution. Delaying the process is another tactics.
The accused will also convince the SIT and the Court to treat those numerous acts of omission and commission, which virtually facilitated and actualized the mass carnage in 2002, as routine unintentional administrative lapses calling for departmental action without criminal liability. This stance will make acts like, delay in imposition of curfew in Ahmedabad City on the VHP Bandh Day on 28th Feb., 2002 (When maximum killings in the riots took place) for facilitating parading of dead bodies of Godhra fire victims; non implementation of provisions of Gujarat Police Manual, Communal riots schemes and other instructions on control of communal riots; ignoring complaints of riot victims, appointment of the Sangh Parivar office-bearers as PPs to conduct cases against accused in anti-minority crimes etc; as plain predictable functional indiscretions !!!. The Court will also be assured of State Govt. initiating departmental action against the defaulters. This will give a safe burial of all litigations relating to the 2002 genocide. A brilliant defense!!! Capitalizing on the denial of justice to riot victims, the internationally organized Islamic jihadists, would redouble their efforts to recruit more dejected riot victims to their fold for pursuing terrorist objectives.
Being fully confident about the proven eminence and integrity of the Chairman of the SIT, well meaning citizens are optimistic about positive move from the SIT, soon, against the planners and executioners of 2002 butchery of the innocents in Gujarat.
R.B.Sreekumar is a former Director General of Police, Gujarat, who stood upto Narendra Modi in the immediate aftermath of Gujarat carnage