The Supreme Court has asked the SIT that probed the post-Godhra Gujarat riot cases to approach the Gujarat High Court with its plea that the transfer of metropolitan magistrate B.J. Ganatra be put on hold.
The Special Investigation Team (SIT) has sought that the transfer be put off till the hearing in the protest petition by Zakia Jaffri, challenging its closure report in Gulberg Society carnage, was completed.
Zakia Jaffari, widow of former MP Ehsan Jaffri, who was killed in the Gulberg Society carnage during the 2002 riots, had filed a protest petition challenging the closure report by the SIT following its probe into the alleged deliberate inaction on the part of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, his cabinet colleagues and some high-ranking state officials in preventing the carnage.
In the 2002 incident, 69 people, including the former Congress MP Jafri, were killed. The rampaging mob targeted members of the Muslim community in the Ahmedabad neighbourhood and set it afire. It was alleged that all the frantic calls for help went unanswered.
R.K. Raghavan, retired CBI director who was heading the SIT team, in his May 7, 2013, letter seeking that the transfer of Ganatra be stayed, told the court that the Metropolitan Magistrate had already commenced hearing arguments in the said protest petition which continued for a number of days, since the record is voluminous.
The letter by the SIT chairman pointed out that when substantial hearing of the protest plea by Zaika Jaffri was over, on May 2, 2013, Ganatara was transferred in the general reshuffle of judicial officers in Gujarat.
Considering the letter written by Raghavan, the apex court bench of Justice P. Sathasivam, Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai and Justice M.Y. Eqbal in their chamber hearing Friday said, "In view of the said circumstance, we are of the opinion that it is desirable to continue with the same presiding officer to dispose of the protest petition."
"Accordingly", the judges said, "we feel that it would be proper and expedient if this request is made by the chairman, SIT, before the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court on the administrative side."
Having said this, the court said, "We are confident that having regard to the situation, the learned chief justice will pass appropriate orders on the request of the chairman, SIT."
The SIT in its report to the apex court had given a clean chit to Chief Minister Narendra Modi and others for their alleged inaction in preventing the carnage.
The hearing of the protest petition by Zakia Jaffari is in pursuance to the Sep 12, 2012, apex court order which had said that the trial court, before deciding on the complaint by Zakia Jaffri, will issue her a notice and afford her an opportunity to be heard.
The apex court, by the order, had also said that if for any reasons the SIT recommends the closure of a case against any person named by Zakia Jaffri, the trial court would do so after issuing notice to her and giving her an opportunity of raising objections and being heard.
"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 (trial) court shall issue notice to the complainant (Zakia Jaffri) and make available to her copies of the statements of the witnesses, other related documents and the investigation report strictly in accordance with law as enunciated by this court", the court had said in its Sep 12, 2012 order.