A special investigation team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court didn’t carry out a proper probe into the 2002 Naroda Gam massacre and that the prosecution couldn’t prove that the accused were present at the crime scene, said the judgment in the case that was made public on Tuesday.
A special SIT court last month acquitted all accused in the Naroda Gam case where 11 Muslims were killed, bringing the curtain down on the trial in one of the worst episodes of violence in the 2002 Gujarat riots that spanned two decades. The court pronounced a one-line verdict letting off all 67 accused in the case – another 18 were charged but died during the course of the trial – including former Gujarat minister Maya Kodnani, Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi and Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Jaydeep Patel.
The detailed 1,728-page order was made public on Tuesday and blamed the SIT for the acquittals. The court order said the investigating agency did not verify the statements of the witnesses, and added that their statements were found to be contradicting those made before the police earlier. The investigation team did not properly conduct a test identification parade either, the order said.
“To sum up the submission it is respectfully stated that there is no manner of doubt in these set of facts of the case that the NGO/Third Party has taken much interest right from the beginning to create/ fabricate facts and ultimately to implicate more persons in the case in such circumstances the investigation, made by SIT which is virtually futile except to add more accused ( and to file additional charge-sheet) is of no consequence and is required to be completely given a go bye and not be relied upon,” according to submission made before the court by Kodnani’s counsels Amit Patel and Yogesh Lakhani.
“Based on the evidence provided before the court, written arguments and judgments, no way does it establish that the accused have conspired to commit a crime, engaged in unlawful assembly or to achieve a common goal have committed a heinous crime or killed someone,” special judge Shubhada Baxi said in his order.
The prosecution and defence examined 187 and 57 witnesses, respectively, during the trial that started in 2010. Seven judges heard this case at different stages. “We will advise the government to challenge the court’s order,” said special public prosecutor Gaurang Vyas.
The Naroda Gam massacre case was one of the nine major 2002 communal riots cases investigated by the SIT and heard by special courts. On February 28, 2002, 11 Muslims were killed as communal violence rocked the Naroda Gam area of Ahmedabad city, a day after 58 passengers on board the Sabarmati Express were charred to death when the train was set on fire in Godhra. In 2008, a Supreme Court-instituted SIT filed a charge sheet against 86 people, booking them under Indian Penal Code sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting armed with deadly weapons), 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy), and 153 (provocation for riots), among others.
The defence witnesses included Union home minister Amit Shah, who appeared as a witness for Kodnani to establish her alibi that she was at the Sola Civil Hospital on the morning of February 28, 2002. The prosecution witnesses had claimed she was at the Naroda Gam along with Patel at that time. In 2017, Shah told the court he saw Kodnani in the Gujarat Assembly around 8.30am and at Sola civil hospital around 11.15am on the day the violence took place.