It is unfortunate that the petition was dismissed: Tanvir Jafri on Zakia Jafri case

The son of Zakia Jafri and slain Congress MP Ehsaan Jafri also lamented the Supreme Court’s observations about the NGO that helped them seek justice and whistleblower cops

tanvir jafriFile Photo

On August 6, civil society groups such as Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reform (CJAR), People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), and National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), organized a People’s Tribunal at the Constitution Club in New Delhi. Titled, People’s Tribunal: Judicial Rollback of Civil Liberties, the day-long event saw discussions with special emphasis on Himanshu Kumar and Zakia Jafri Judgements of the Supreme Court. 

The Tribunal’s jury comprised Justice AP Shah (Former CJ, High Court of Delhi and former chairperson, Law Commission of India), Justice Anjana Prakash (Former Judge, Patna High Court), Justice Marlapalle (Former Judge, Bombay High Court), Professor Virginius Xaxa (Chair of the 2014 High Level Committee to Examine the Status of Scheduled Tribes) and Dr. Syeda Hameed (Former Member of the Planning Commission). 

In the discussion regarding the Supreme Court judgment in the Zakia Jafri case, Tanvir Jafri, who is the son of Zakia Jafri and slain former Congress Member of Parliament Ehsan Jafri (who was killed during the communal violence in Gujarat in 2002), voiced his concerns about the judgment and its consequences. Other panelists in this discussion included Senior Advocate Mihir Desai (Bombay High Court) and Advocate Nizam Pasha (Supreme Court). 

Tanvir Jafri recounted how Gujarat, Gulberg Society, and his mother Zakia Jafri had seen communal riots from the late 1960s to 2002, and how Gulberg Society had always been a place of refuge at such times for the riot affected people. But all that changed on the day the society was attacked. “They set fire to the house. Those who were inside were burnt to death, those who stepped outside were attacked with knives,” said Jafri speaking about the fateful day. “My mother and about one hundred people took refuge on the higher floors and the roof, and were rescued only when the police arrived hours later, by which time my father had been killed brutally,” he said. 

Jafri is pained by the outcome of the Zakia Jafri case where his mother was the main petitioner, backed by Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) via its secretary Teesta Setalvad. “It is unfortunate that the petition was dismissed. What’s more shocking is how the court made remarks about police officials who were just doing their duty and the NGO that supported us. They are now in jail,” he said referring to Setalvad, who was named co-conspirator along with two whistle-blower cops – former Gujarat Director General of Police (DGP) RB Sreekumar and Sanjiv Bhatt. The First Information Report (FIR) against the trio was registered just the day after the Supreme Court, while dismissing the petition moved Zakia Jafri, observed in the judgment, “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.

Tanvir Jafri New

The FIR against Setalvad quoted the same line from the judgment, thereby confirming that it was the observations of the court in the judgment that had precipitated the arrest.   

Meanwhile, Advocate Nizam Pasha spoke about how the tone of the Supreme Court was to frown upon the audacity of petitioners in the case to question the state machinery. He spoke about the incidents leading up to riots across the state of Gujarat like the distribution of weapons, hate speeches and the public procession involving bodies of those killed in the Godhra train burning incident. He pointed out how these elements were presented as a part of conspiracy by the petitioners.

According to Pasha, the court not only ignored all the evidence presented by the petitioners, but also there was no relation between the Court’s judgement and the petitioner’s arguments. “We were given answers to questions we didn’t ask, instead of answers to the ones we did ask,” he said, asking, “How does a conspiracy not become evident despite all the evidence presented?” 

Senior Advocate Mihir Desai cautioned about the fact that judgements of both Himanshu Kumar and Zakia Jafri cases have been given without any conviction or acquittal, and the people have been targeted as a result of or on the basis of judgement. He responded to the SC’s observations on how the petitioners kept the ‘pot boiling’ for 16 years by citing different instances where institutions such as National Human Rights Commission(NHRC), and the Supreme court itself, allegedly “kept the pot boiling” rather than the petitioners. 

He cited an incident where Gujarat High Court called both himself and Teesta Setalvad ‘anti-nationals’ and on appeal, the Supreme Court struck down those remarks saying that there is no basis to use such terms without even giving an opportunity to hear them. He drew a contrast between SC of 2003 when the said incident took place, and the SC of today, which made observations, against the petitioners in the Zakia Jafri Case judgment. 

“Sreekumar is not before the Supreme Court. Teesta is before the Supreme Court but Supreme Court in its para no.2 says that we are not deciding the locus of Teesta; we will treat this as an appeal only by Zakia and not by Teesta. So technically, Teesta is also not before the Supreme Court,” he said, asking, “On what basis does the Supreme Court then, which gave an order in 2003 saying that you can’t castigate people who are not present before you without giving them an opportunity of being heard as to why you are castigating them, on what basis is the SC doing it today?” 

He recalled that Zakia Jafri’s complaint was to ask the authorities to look at a larger conspiracy i.e. deliberate inaction and action by state authorities and persons in power in the administration, that allegedly allowed the violence, especially against the minority community, to continue unabated. 

Referring to Supreme Court forming the Special Investigation Team (SIT) for the investigation of some of the most important trials of the 2002 Gujarat violence, rather than let the Gujarat police continue investigating them, he added, “Even in 2008, please understand this – the Supreme Court is not trusting the Gujarat Police, the Supreme Court is not trusting the Prosecutors who are supposedly selected after advertisement and interview. The Supreme Court is not trusting anyone. Even in 2008. The pot is boiling already. Okay. We have not started boiling the pot.” It is noteworthy that the first complaint was filed by Zakia Jafri only in June 2008. He said that the SC asked the SIT to look into Zakia Jafri’s complaint and also ordered that Zakia Jafri be notified in case an accused is dropped. 

Given that the SIT did not give notice to Zakia Jafri before dropping the accused, the current petition arose to make sure the Supreme Court’s order is complied with. He said that the petition was not to ask the Supreme Court to convict one person or another but to facilitate an investigation and trial regarding a conspiracy.

“We of course have to continue our battle; we have to continuously fight and hopefully Himanshu and others will never be put in Jail and Teesta and Sreekumar will be out of jail very soon. But that is not the end of our battle, that is just the beginning of our battle,” he said ending his address.

The jury of the People’s Tribunal will release its report within a week’s time based on the arguments and documents presented during the day.



SIT was only ‘SIT’ting, not investigating: Kapil Sibal in Zakia Jafri SLP

Communal violence is like lava, leaving ground fertile for revenge: Kapil Sibal in Zakia Jafri SLP

‘Grave Injustice’: People’s Tribunal on SC Judgements in Zakia Jafri, Himanshu Kumar’s Petitions



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