Day 14 Oral HearingZakia Jafri and Gujarat Riots SIT
On December 9th, a three-judge Bench comprising Justices Khanwilkar, Maheshwari and Ravikumar concluded final hearings in a petition filed by Mrs. Zakia Jafri challenging the SIT’s closure report in the Gujarat Riots case. Mrs. Jafri is the wife of Congress MP Mr. Ehsaan Jafri, who was killed in the Gulberg Society massacre. Mrs. Jafri’s co-petitioner, Teesta Setalvad is the founder of NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace. Read more about the case here.
Over fourteen days of final hearings, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the petitioners, has argued that Mrs. Jafri’s conspiracy complaint should have been investigated as a separate case, not only in relation to the Gulberg case. He stated that the SIT deliberately failed to do so, in order to protect the accused. Conversely, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the SIT, argued that the Court had only ordered the SIT to look into Mrs. Jafri’s complaint for further evidence in the Gulberg case. The SIT had gone beyond this limited scope to ensure that Mrs. Jafri’s complaint was thoroughly investigated.
Today, Mr. Sibal began by providing an account of the humanitarian work done by Ms. Setalvad’s NGO, Citizens for Justice and Peace, to push back against Mr. Rohatgi’s characterization of her work as ‘anti-Gujarat’.
Mr. Sibal further stated that the magistrate was duty bound to order an investigation if the evidence produced in Mrs. Jafri’s complaint led to the reasonable suspicion that conspiracy had occurred. The Magistrate was not required to inquire into the correctness of the material. He urged the Court to make the same assessment, and order a further investigation if they found reasonable suspicion. He submitted that the ‘majesty of the law’ was being tested in this case.
Mr. Sibal also reminded the Court that journalist Ashish Khetan’s Tehelka sting operation had crucial evidence incriminating many of the accused in the conspiracy case. He submitted that the SIT had used the tapes to convict accused persons in other Gujarat riots FIRs, but had deemed the tapes unreliable in this case. Mr. Rohatgi clarified that the convictions were not based on the tapes, but on other material. He stated that the SIT did not question the authenticity of the tapes- they found the material in the tapes to have low probative value, since they were extra-judicial confessions.
Mr. Rohatgi also reminded the Court that Mr. Sibal had not responded to the allegation that he had doctored Mrs. Jafri’s police complaint to remove Sanjov Bhatt’s name as an accused person before submitted it to the Court. Mr. Rohatgi argued that this was done deliberately to be able to convert the accused into a ‘star witness’. He highlighted that such conduct was not acceptable, and should convince the Court to throw the case out.
The Bench reserved judgment in the case.