Struggle for Justice

Written by Teesta Setalvad | Published on: September 1, 2006

Various issues related to the state sponsored genocide in Gujarat in 2002 require urgent attention: the guilty must be punished and the state must provide fair and immediate reparation

 

The struggle for justice to the victims of the mass carnage in Gujarat 2002 has taken many twists and turns. The inordinate media attention on the famed Best Bakery case, which in a sense overtook all others, was justified given the prompt hearing and disposal of the issue by the apex court in its historic judgement dated April 12, 2004.

What somehow escapes public attention is the extraordinary scale and extent of state complicity in the carnage of citizens in 2002 and therefore the unrelenting efforts to shield its perpetrators. Various writ petitions, trials and civil suits have attempted to bring this out. Apart from the issue of punishing the guilty in the major massacres, the issue of fair reparation by the state is also pending before the Gujarat High Court (Citizens for Justice and Peace, CJP, are the petitioners).

Besides this, all the victim survivors of the Gulberg Society massacre have filed civil suits of compensation against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). Zakia Jaffri, widow of the late former parliamentarian, Ahsan Jaffri, has filed an FIR (First Information Report) under Section 154 of the CrPC against Modi and 67 others (including present and former ministers and IPS and IAS officials) alleging criminal conspiracy at the highest level.

Over the next few issues of Communalism Combat we will refresh our readers’ memory on the various issues related to the state sponsored genocide that are pending decision before our courts. To begin with, in this issue we document the brazen attitude of the state of Gujarat in the mass carnage cases. (Apart from the Best Bakery case in which Additional Sessions Judge Abhay Thipsay of the Mazgaon court, Mumbai delivered his verdict in February this year.)

On September 1, 2003 when the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) approached the Supreme Court demanding retrial and transfer in the Best Bakery case, the statutory body also filed a transfer petition asking for reinvestigation and transfer of major carnage cases, including the Godhra train torching case, the Gulberg Society and the Naroda Patiya incidents. NHRC’s transfer petition was a logical corollary to its own fact-finding report on the Gujarat killings (May-July 2002). The report had strongly recommended transfer of investigation and setting up of special courts for the trial of the mass carnage cases.

CJP intervened in the case and filed over 65 affidavits for victim survivors of these massacres. It pleaded that the Naroda Gaon, Ode and Sardarpura massacres also needed to be reinvestigated and transferred for trial as they too had figured in the NHRC’s 2002 report. Following CJP’s arguments, on November 21, 2003 the Supreme Court stayed the Godhra, Gulberg, Naroda Gaon, Patiya, Ode and Sardarpura trials. Since then, detailed hearings have taken place during which CJP placed voluminous details on record.

After an inordinate delay – due largely to the turnaround of witness Zahira Sheikh in November 2004 — the Supreme Court, on July 11, 2006, resumed hearing the matter. It ordered the services of Judge Mehta, additional sessions judge, Delhi to guide the court on the issues raised. Now, on September 27 and 28, 2006, the issues of reinvestigation and transfer (as in the Best Bakery case) are to be heard by the apex court.

CC brings to its readers details of the failure of proper investigation and continued subversion of the justice process by the state of Gujarat, which CJP has already brought to the Supreme Court’s notice. The current issue of CC deals with the Gulberg Society, Naroda Gaon, Naroda Patiya, Ode and Sardarpura massacres. In our next issue, we will publish details on the Godhra trial.

Complicity at the highest level in the appointment of public prosecutors (PPs) by the state of Gujarat was thoroughly exposed in the Best Bakery case. Lawyers who had appeared for the accused were appointed as public prosecutors, exposing a transparent conflict of interest. Worse, many who were appointed were clearly linked, ideologically and organisationally, with the VHP, BJP and Bajrang Dal, the very outfits that had proudly claimed credit for the