Zakia Jafri and Gujarat Riots SIT
Zakia Ahsan Jafri v State of Gujarat
The Court held that the Magistrate’s Court adequately addressed Mrs. Zakia Jafri’s complaints against the report of the SC-appointed Special Investigation Committee which closed investigation against the accused in the 2002 Gujarat riots case. The Special Investigation Team (SIT) had granted a ‘clean chit’ to the 63 accused persons.
Petitioners: Zakia Jafri; Citizens for Justice and Peace
Lawyers: Kapil Sibal; Mihir Desai
Respondent: State of Gujarat; SC-appointed Special Investigation Team
Lawyers: Tushar Mehta; Mukul Rohatgi
Whether the Magistrate was duty-bound to examine any evidence in addition to the SIT’s closure report while disposing of Mrs. Jafri’s protest petition?
Whether the Magistrate addressed all the complaints in Mrs. Jafri’s protest petition?
Whether the Gujarat High Court made factual and legal errors when upholding the Magistrate’s decision to dismiss Mrs. Jafri’s protest petition?
The petitioner, Zakia Jafri, is the wife of Congress MP Ehsaan Jafri who was one of those killed at Gulberg Society in February 2002, in the pogrom following the Godhra deaths. In June 2006, Mrs. Jafri filed a police complaint against 63 persons, including then Gujarat Chief Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, alleging deliberate and wilful dereliction of duty on the part of State officials in preventing the pogrom. She complained of bureaucratic inaction, police complicity, hate speech and a ‘conspired unleashing of violence’.
The police initially took no action on Jafri’s complaint. She filed a petition before the Gujarat High Court seeking that her complaint be treated as an FIR, so that an investigation may be launched into the larger conspiracy that caused the 2002 pogrom. On November 2nd 2007, the High Court dismissed this petition. Mrs. Jafri then sought the same prayer on March 3rd 2008 from the Supreme Court. By then, the Supreme Court had already constituted a Special Investigation Committee (SIT) to look into the Gujarat Riots case. The Court directed the SIT to also investigate Mrs. Jafri’s complaint.
The SIT filed a report closing the investigation against the accused, and granting them a ‘clean chit’ without hearing Mrs. Jafri. She then filed a Protest Petition against the investigation conducted by the SIT before the Supreme Court. The SC ordered the Magistrate’s Court to look into the SIT’s closure report and the protest petition. Jafri argues that the Magistrate dismissed her petition without considering ‘substantial merits’. Specifically, she claims that her case has been independent of the case related to the Gulberg Society massacre from the beginning. While the Gulberg case is specific to the events of one night, her case calls for an investigation into the larger conspiracy at play in the many instances of violence that took place after Godhra. She argues that the Magistrate treated her case as being identical to the Gulberg case.
Mrs. Jafri then protested against the decision of the SIT before the Gujarat High Court. In October 2017, the High Court refused to find fault in the SIT’s report, stating that its functioning had been overseen by the Supreme Court. However, it allowed Jafri to demand further investigation before any appropriate forum, including the Magistrate’s Court, the High Court’s division bench, or the Supreme Court.
Thus, in 2018, Jafri filed a Special Leave Petition before the Supreme Court. The present petition challenges the Magistrate’s dismissal of her Protest Petition. It also challenges the Gujarat High Court’s 2017 decision to the extent that it finds that the Magistrate has dealt with Jafri’s protest petition on substantial merits. Jafri seeks further investigation into the 2002 conspiracy from the Supreme Court.
On June 24th 2022, Justices A.M. Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and C.T. Ravikumar, upheld the clean chit given by the Magistrate and the SIT to the accused through an anonymous Judgment. The Bench found no merit in Mrs. Jafri’s petition.