The Supreme Court today directed the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to "forward a final report, along with the entire material collected by the SIT" to the trial court, which should then decide whether a case needs to be registered to investigate Mr Modi's alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riot cases. The SC also added that "before submission of its report, it will be open to the SIT to obtain from the Amicus Curiae copies of his reports submitted to this Court."
The full text of the report is here.
First, a brief timeline of the case filed by former Congress MP Ahsan Jafri's widow who had filed a complaint on June 8, 2006, against the Gujarat Chief Minister and 61 other top police and administrative officials alleging they had aided, abetted and conspired for the riots which took place between February 27 and May 10 in 2002 and that a separate FIR needed to be filed against them.
February 27, 2002: Godhra train carnage
February-May, 2002: Riots take place in different parts of Gujarat
February 28, 2002: Former Congress MP Ahsan Jafri is killed in Gulbarg Society riot in Ahmedabad. FIR is registered by the Police with Meghaninagar PoliceStation, Ahmedabad. The case was committed to the Court of Sessions, Ahmedabad.
June 8, 2006:
- Mr Ahsan Jafri's widow Mrs Jakia Nasim Ahesan seeks to register another FIR against Narendra Modi and 61 others for making out a case for criminal conspiracy to commit mass murder, destruction of evidence, intimidation and subversion of the criminal justice system (punishable under Section 302 read with Section 120B as also under Section 193 read with Sections 114, 186& 153A, 186, 187 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.)
- She argued that the incidents which took place during the period between 27th February, 2002 and 10th May, 2002, were aided, abetted and conspired by some responsible persons in power, in connivance with the State Administration, including the Police.
- Police declined to take cognizance of her complaint
February 28, 2007: Mrs Jafri and Citizens for Justice and Peace file a petition in th Gujarat HC praying for the registration of an FIR against Mr Narendra Modi and 61 others and also for the transfer of investigation to the CBI
November 2, 2007: Gujarat High Court rejects Ms Jafri's plea for registration of FIR against Mr Modi or others named in her complaint
March 3, 2008: Supreme Court issues notice to the Centre and Gujarat government on Mrs Jafri's plea and an amicus curiae, Prashant Bhushan was appointed to assist the Court
March 26, 2008: Court appoints a four-member Special Investigating Team (SIT) headed by former Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director R K Raghavan to conduct investigation in these cases
April 27, 2009: The Supreme Court directs the SIT to look into the complaint of Ms Jafri.
May 12, 2010: Interim SIT report submitted to the SC by SIT member A.K. Malhotra recommending further investigation under Section 173(8) of the Code against certain Police officials and a Minister in the State Cabinet. By this time serious charges have been upheld against the functioning of the SIT in other carnage related cases and two Gujarat Officers, Shivanand Jha and Geeta Johri have been removed by the SIT.
October 2010: When Amicus Prashant Bhushan is about to submit his report, the state of Gujarat makes allegations against him accusing him of bias. He recuses himself as Amicus. Thereafter the SC appoints Shi Rohinton Nariman, who declines.
November 17, 2010: The SIT files another report after further investigation
November 23, 2010: Raju Ramachandran, Senior Advocate and Gaurav Agarwal, Advocate, replaced the previous Amicus Curiae
January, 20 2011: A preliminary note was submitted by Raju Ramachandran, the Amicus Curiae
March 15, 2011: The Supreme Court directs the SIT to further probe the case on the basis of note given by the amicus
April 24, 2011: The SIT submits its report
May 5, 2011: The Supreme Court asks the amicus to make an independent assessment of the SIT probe:
If the learned Amicus Curiae forms an opinion that on the basis of the material on record, any offence is made out against any person, he shall mention the same in his report
July 25, 2011: Amicus Curiae submits his final report
September 12, 2011: The Supreme Court refuses to pass order on Mr Modi and directs concerned Magistrate of Ahmedabad to decide the case:
We direct the Chairman, SIT to forward a final report, along with the entire material collected by the SIT, to the Court which had taken cognizance of Crime Report No.67 of 2002, as required under Section 173(2) of the Code. Before submission of its report, it will be open to the SIT to obtain from the Amicus Curiae copies of his reports submitted to this Court. The said Court will deal with the matter in accordance with law relating to the trial of the accused, named in the report/charge-sheet, including matters falling within the ambit and scope of Section 173(8) of the Code. However, at this juncture, we deem it necessary to emphasise that if for any stated reason the SIT opines in its report, to be submitted in terms of this order, that there is no sufficient evidence or reasonable grounds for proceeding against any person named in the complaint, dated 8th June 2006, before taking a final decision on such ‘closure’ report, the Court shall issue notice to the complainant and make available to her copies of the statements of the witnesses, other related documents and the investigation report strictly in accordance with law...
After pointing out various recent case laws, and citing Narmada Bai Vs.State of Gujarat & Ors:
though this Court is competent to entrust the investigation to any independent agency, once the investigating agency complete their function of investigating into the offences, it is the court in which the charge-sheet is filed which is to deal with all matters relating to the trial of the accused including matters falling within the scope of Section 173(8) of the Code. Thus, generally, this Court may not require further monitoring of the case/investigation. However, we make it clear that if any of the parties including CBI require any further direction, they are free to approach this Court by way of an application
the SC concluded:
We are of the opinion that in the instant case we have reached a stage where the process of monitoring of the case must come to an end. It would neither be desirable nor advisable to retain further seisin over this case. We dispose of this appeal accordingly
The law minister Salman Khurshid put it most succinctly when he said that what the Supreme Court said in its order today is what any well-trained lawyer should have expected. This is what the SC should and could have done, he pointed out, as the ultimate appellate court cannot be and is not the trial court. We should welcome this, he said. And, as he went on to point out, it certainly does not mean any clean-chit to anyone, because now the due process would take over.
It is time also to go back to what Pratap Bhanu Mehta pointed out the other day:
While the SIT has raised enough questions about Narendra Modi’s political responsibility, it seems to have fallen short of making a legally prosecutable case. So the court then appoints a distinguished amicus curiae to assess its own SIT. The issue here is not guilt or innocence. But the process is instructive: we create an institution to bypass an untrustworthy process, and then that institution itself requires yet another layer of assessment. The dilemma is this: due process and formalism have become a fig leaf for avoiding justice. But tailoring process so that the outcome corresponds to our intuitions in a matter also runs risks. Since the court is “crafting” processes, it will have to avoid both dangers.
What is important, however, is that the court has not passed any strictures on the SIT's investigations -- nor has it revealed the Amicus Curiae's remarks to ensure that the accused get a fair trial -- and has in fact asked it to forward a final report to the trial court with "the entire material collected by the SIT". No matter what the trial court verdict is, we are clearly going to see the case go all the way to the SC in due course, and the challenge now would be to fast-track this due process of trial court decisions and the appeal process.
Some of the reactions on Twitter today: