Zakia Jafri, wife of Congress MP Ahsan Jafri who was killed in the 2002 post-Godhra riots in Gujarat, on Tuesday told Supreme Court that investigators did not record the statement of Lieutenant General Zameer Uddin Shah, who led the Army contingent that restored peace in the state, to ascertain whether the forces were given quick access or not.
Appearing for Jafri, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal told a bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar, “His statement was not recorded. Were they given quick access or not? If they were not given quick access, then why not?”
The bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and C T Ravikumar, is hearing Jafri’s appeal against Gujarat High Court’s order upholding the decision of the Ahmedabad Metropolitan Magistrate court to accept the closure report filed by the SC-appointed Special Investigation Team, which gave a clean chit to the then chief minister Narendra Modi and others in the riot-related cases.
Referring to a memoir by Lt Gen Shah, Sibal said the book said “they (Army) remained stranded at the airfield” due to lack of transport. “I am not using this as substantive evidence… Had they taken his statement, all these would have come on record,” he said.
The bench sought to know when the book was published. After Sibal said 2018, the court responded: “So this was not before Special Investigation Team”.
Sibal said the former Army officer had said that “the initial reaction of civil administration was tardy” and that he “could not even contact the public servants”.
“This was a part of the official record, they could have investigated it. All of this was documented, why was it not investigated?… When they landed? Whom they called? What was the response? Why were they given delayed access?…,” Sibal said.
He said the petitioner tried to get information about operation Aman under RTI but to no avail.
Lt Gen Shah got a medal for restoring peace in Gujarat but he did not have kind words to say, he added.
Stating that a lot of hate speech was circulated through the media, Sibal submitted that the Editors Guild had in a report concurred with the NHRC conclusion that the responsibility of media had to be investigated.
He said there were reports about “indiscriminate firing from Fatepur mosque” and added this “was complete fabrication”. “If you fabricate stories and put them on front page of newspaper what would happen? What had happened would happen,” he said, adding that leaflets were distributed without any name, obviously that was a part of the conspiracy but it was not investigated.
Sibal submitted that the then ADGP R B Sreekumar had said that intelligence was available but there was no response from Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad. Sreekumar had said that he had specifically pointed out that members of VHP and Bajrang Dal were contemplating action and “media played a decisive role in keeping the momentum alive”, said Sibal.
He also took the court through the statement of the then Bhavnagar SP Rahul Sharma. The senior counsel said Sharma has stated that mobile phones were used in a big way in the riots. “Here is a police officer saying mobile phones were used. Then why did you not seize the mobile phones. The call records were never investigated,” said Sibal.
Sharma, he added, narrated how political leaders approached him for bail of accused and said “this shows political interference”.
Stressing the element of conspiracy in the riots, Sibal said conspiracy can only be established if investigation is conducted. “Question is who all were involved. That would only depend on investigation. That is why we are asking your lordships that there should be some investigation,” he said.
Sibal submitted that “the Republic is like a ship. That ship has to be made steady. It is your task to keep the Republic steady. It would be steady only if the majesty of law prevails. This is a case where majesty of law has been deeply injured”.
The arguments remained inconclusive and will continue on Wednesday.