National

Justice For Ehsan Jafri: A Timeline  

Late Congress leader Ehsan Jafri's wife Zakia Jafri’s plea, alleging a 'larger conspiracy' in the 2002 Gujarat riots, remains unheard. 

Late Congress leader Ehsan Jafri's wife Zakia Jafri
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Last week, the Supreme Court dismissed the plea filed by Zakia Jafri, wife of late Congress legislator Ehsan Jafri, challenging the closure report filed by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) that gave clean chit to then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and others. The apex court agreed that there was no “larger conspiracy”. 
The SC was hearing a special leave petition, which challenged the October 2017 judgment of the Gujarat high court, after it accepted the SIT closure report dismissing allegations of a “larger conspiracy” against the state administration.  

The ruling sparked controversy. The bench of justices A.M. Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and C.T. Ravikumar noted that the information gathered by the SIT doesn’t entice suspicion. It said, “We find force in the argument of the respondent-state that the testimonies of Mr. Sanjiv Bhatt, Mr. Haren Pandya and also of Mr. R.B. Sreekumar were only to sensationalise and politicise matters in the issue, although replete with falsehood.”  

Questions were also raised over the involvement of activist Teesta Setalvad. The order said, “The antecedents of Ms. Teesta Setalvad need to be reckoned and also because she has been vindictively persecuting (sic) this for her ulterior design by exploiting the emotions and sentiments of the appellant–Zakia Ahsan Jafri, the real victim of the circumstances.” 

On June 25, Union home minister Amit Shah lashed out at Teesta Setalvad in an interview, saying, “I have read the judgment very carefully. It clearly mentions the name of Teesta Setalvad. The NGO that was being run by her—I don't remember the name of the NGO—had given baseless information about the riots to the police.” 

Soon after the interview, the crime branch of the Ahmedabad Police arrested Setalvad. The police also arrested the former DGP Sreekumar. 
A fresh FIR has been registered by Gujarat Police against Setalvad, retired DGP Sreekumar, and former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, based on the Supreme Court ruling ie., for providing incorrect information in the Gujarat riot case. 
 
It all began on February 27, 2002, when 59 Hindu pilgrims and kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya, were killed when a mob burnt a coach of the Sabarmati Express near Godhra railway station. 

The next day, when the charred bodies of the kar sevaks reached the state capital, a mob started pelting stones and attacking the Bohra-Muslim Gulbarg housing society in Ahmedabad’s industrial area. In the attack, dozens of Muslim residents were killed, several houses were set afire, and former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri was burnt alive. According to eyewitness accounts, Jafri made several calls to police for help, but to no avail.  

The next month, the Gujarat government appointed a commission to probe the Godhra incident and subsequent riots. Taking note, the National Human Rights Commission also filed a writ petition to demand a fair investigation. 

Zakia Jafri filed a police complaint against Narendra Modi and 62 others in June 2006, claiming that there was a “larger conspiracy”. In November 2007, she approached the high court, which refused to entertain her plea, suggesting she should approach the Supreme Court. In April 2009, when she reached the Supreme Court, it appointed a five-member SIT under former CBI director R.K. Raghavan to investigate if there was any connivance of the state administration in the riots. 
In December 2010, Zakia Jafri filed an application in the Supreme Court, requesting it to direct the SIT to submit its report before the Ahmedabad court within 30 days. Accordingly, on February 8, 2012, the SIT submitted its closure report to a Gujarat magistrate’s court, clearing Narendra Modi and 63 others of the accusation, citing lack of prosecutable evidence. 

In December 2013, the metropolitan magistrate rejected Zakia’s protest petition and accepted the SIT finding. In October 2017, Gujarat High Court also upheld the SIT’s findings, rejecting her plea. In September 2018, she moved the Supreme Court, challenging the Gujarat high court order. Finally, on June 24, the Supreme Court dismissed her plea, upholding the SIT’s findings that gave clean chit to Modi and others. 

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