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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the SIT’s clean chit to then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and 63 others in the 2002 riots in the state and dismissed a plea by slain Congress leader Ehsan Jafri’s wife Zakia who had alleged a larger conspiracy.

Bringing the curtains down on the bid to reopen the probe, a bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar said the material collected during the investigation does not give rise to strong or grave suspicion regarding hatching of larger criminal conspiracy at the highest level for causing mass violence against Muslims.

The bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and C T Ravikumar, termed Zakia Jafri’s plea devoid of merit. It spoke of the devious stratagem to keep the pot boiling, obviously, for ulterior design and said all those involved in such abuse of process need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law.

Zakia Jafri had challenged the SIT’s clean chit to 64 people, including Modi who was the Gujarat chief minister at the time, and alleged a larger conspiracy.

The apex court appreciated the Special Investigation Team (SIT) for its indefatigable work in challenging circumstances and said it has come out with flying colours unscathed .

The top court said no fault can be found with the SIT’s approach and its February 8, 2012 final report is backed by firm logic, expositing analytical mind and dealing with all aspects objectively for discarding the allegations regarding larger criminal conspiracy.

The bench upheld the decision of a magistrate in accepting the final report submitted by the SIT and rejecting the protest petition filed by Zakia Jafri. She had challenged the Gujarat High Court’s October 5, 2017 order rejecting her plea against the SIT decision.

We do not countenance the submission of the appellant regarding infraction of rule of law in the matter of investigation and the approach of the magistrate and the high court in dealing with the final report, the bench said in its 452-page judgement.

Congress leader and former MP Ehsan Jafri was among the 68 people killed at Ahmedabad’s Gulberg Society during violence on February 28, 2002, a day after the Godhra train burning that claimed 59 lives.

The riots that it triggered killed 1,044 people, mostly Muslims.

Giving details, the Central government informed the Rajya Sabha in May 2005 that 254 Hindus and 790 Muslims were killed in the post Godhra riots.

In its verdict, the apex court noted that the SIT had formed its opinion after considering all the material collated during the investigation. The question of further probe would have arisen only on the availability of new material/information in connection with the allegation of larger conspiracy at the highest level, which is not forthcoming in this case.

As aforementioned, the SIT has gone by the logic of falsity of the information or material and including the same remaining uncorroborated.

In that, the materials collected during the investigation do not give rise to strong or grave suspicion regarding hatching of larger criminal conspiracy at the highest level for causing mass violence across the state against the minority community and more so, indicating involvement of the named offenders and their meeting of minds at some level in that regard, it said.

The bench said the magistrate after applying his mind independently to the final report and the material appended chose to accept it as it is without issuing any other direction to the SIT.

According to the bench, it appeared that there was a coalesced effort of disgruntled officials of Gujarat along with others to create sensation by making revelations that were false. And the falsity of their claims had been fully exposed by the SIT after a thorough investigation.

Intriguingly, the present proceedings have been pursued for last 16 years (from submission of complaint dated June 8, 2006 running into 67 pages and then by filing protest petition dated April 15, 2013 running into 514 pages) including with the audacity to question the integrity of every functionary involved in the process of exposing the devious stratagem adopted (to borrow the submission of counsel for the SIT), to keep the pot boiling, obviously, for ulterior design, it said.

As a matter of fact, all those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law, the bench said.

“Accordingly, we hold that this appeal is devoid of merits and resultantly, deserves to be dismissed in the aforementioned terms. We order accordingly.

CHRONOLOGY

Following is the timeline of events in the case in which the Supreme Court on Friday upheld the Special Investigation Team’s (SIT) clean chit to then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and 63 others in the 2002 riots in the state and dismissed a plea by slain Congress leader Ehsan Jafri’s wife Zakia Jafri.

Feb 27, 2002: 59 Kar-sevaks travelling in Sabarmati Express train, returning from Ayodhya, were allegedly attacked and coaches of the train were set on fire at Godhra Railway Station.

Feb 28, 2002: Mob attack inhabitants of Gulberg Society, Meghaninagar, killing 69 persons including the husband of appellant — Zakia Ahsan Jafri — who had unsuccessfully attempted to dissuade the mob.

Mar 6, 2002: Gujarat government appoints a Commission under Commission of Inquiry Act to probe the Godhra incident and the post-Godhra riots.

Oct 9, 2003: National Human Rights Commission files a writ petition before Supreme Court seeking fair investigation. SC appoints senior advocate Harish Salve as Amicus Curiae.

Jun 8, 2006: Zakia Jafri files complaint against Modi and others into the larger conspiracy behind the 2002 riots.

Mar 26, 2008: SC appoints a Special Investigation Team headed by former CBI director RK Raghavan.

May 1, 2009: Top court vacates stay of the trials and directs the prosecution of cases in Special Courts; and SIT appointed by it to submit progress report.

May 6, 2010: SC directs that trial court shall not pronounce the final judgment till further orders by it. Gulberg Society case put on hold after resignation of the Special Public Prosecutor appearing in that case.

Sept 11, 2011: SC directs Chairman, SIT to forward a final report, along with the entire material collected , to the court which had taken cognisance of crime.

Feb 8, 2012: SIT files closure report giving a clean chit to Modi and 63 others, including senior government officials, saying there was “no prosecutable evidence” against them.

Apr 15, 2013: Zakia Jafri files a protest petition in a local court seeking rejection of the SIT report giving a clean chit to Modi and others in the Gulberg Society riot case.

Dec 26, 2013: Protest petition rejected by the Metropolitan Magistrate and the final report of the SIT is accepted.

Oct 5, 2017: This decision was carried before the High Court which rejects Zakia’s plea against the SIT decision.

Sep 12, 2018: Zakia moves SC challenging the Gujarat High Court’s order rejecting her plea against the decision of the SIT.

Oct 26, 2021: SC begins hearing Zakia’s plea on regular basis.

Dec 9, 2021: SC reserves judgement on the plea filed by Zakia.

Jun 24, 2022: SC dismisses Zakia’s plea and upholds SIT clean chit to Modi and others.

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