New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday fixed for hearing on April 13 the plea of Zakia Jafri, wife of slain MP Ehsan Jafri, challenging the SIT’s clean chit to then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in the 2002 riots, saying it would not entertain any request of adjournment on the next date.
A bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar took note of the request of senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Jafri, that the matter be heard sometime in April as several advocates are busy in the Maratha reservation case being heard presently by a five-judge Constitution bench. However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Gujarat government, opposed the plea for adjournment and sought hearing of the case next week.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the SIT (Special Investigation Team) also opposed the letter for adjournment, and said the matter should be decided. “Put this case for hearing on April 13. No request for adjournment will be entertained,” ordered the bench which also comprised Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Krishna Murari.
The top court, in February last year, had fixed the case for hearing on April 14, 2020 saying the matter had been adjourned many times and will have to be heard someday. Prior to this, Jafri’s counsel had told the apex court that a notice needs to be issued in the plea as it relates to an alleged ”larger conspiracy” from February 27, 2002 to May 2002.
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Ehsan Jafri was among the 68 people killed at Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002, a day after the S-6 Coach of the Sabarmati Express was burnt at Godhra killing 59 people and triggering riots in Gujarat.
On February 8, 2012, the SIT filed a closure report giving a clean chit to Modi and 63 others, including senior government officials, saying there was ”no prosecutable evidence” against them.
Zakia Jafri filed a petition in the apex court in 2018 challenging the Gujarat High Court’s October 5, 2017 order rejecting her plea against the decision of the SIT.
The plea also maintained that after the SIT gave a clean chit in its closure report before a trial judge, the petitioner filed a protest which was dismissed by the magistrate without considering ”substantiated merits”.
It also said the high court ”failed to appreciate” the petitioner’s complaint which was independent of the Gulberg case registered at Meghaninagar Police Station.
The high court in its October 2017 order said the SIT probe was monitored by the Supreme Court. However, it partly allowed Zakia Jafri’s petition as far as its demand of a further investigation was concerned.
It said the petitioner can approach an appropriate forum, including the magistrate’s court, a division bench of the high court or the Supreme Court seeking further investigation.