Friday, November 24, 2006

Supreme Court seeks details of Gujarat violence cases

New Delhi, Nov 22 (IANS) The Supreme Court Wednesday put objections from the
Gujarat government aside and sought details of 17 incidents of communal
violence in 2002 to decide on the question of shifting of these cases for
trial outside the state.

A bench comprising judges K.G. Balakrishnan, Lokeshwar Singh Panta and D.K.
Jain passed this order on petitions filed by the National Human Rights
Commission (NHRC), Teesta Setalvad of the Citizens for Justice and Peace and
some other NGOs.

The petitioners have sought reinvestigation of the cases by the Central
Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and to shift their trial outside Gujarat as
was done for the case related to the killing of 14 people in Vadodara, known
as the Best Bakery case.

The 17 cases include four incidents in Godhra, a town 140 km from Gujarat's
main city of Ahmedabad.

Other cases on the apex court's radar are related to the massacres at
Gulbarg Society in Chamanpura of Ahmedabad, Naroda Patiya and Naroda village
on the outskirts of the city, Sardarpura town in neighbouring Mehsana
district, two incidents of violence in Panchamahals district, violence in
Sesan of Banaskantha district and cases pertaining to Ode in Anand district.


The Supreme Court sought details of the 17 cases from amicus curiae Harish
Salve.

The state government Wednesday filed an application strongly opposing the
transfer of these cases at the instance of third parties.

It cited the judgement of the apex court in a case against Railway Minister
Lalu Prasad in which it was held that "a PIL (public interest litigation) is
totally foreign to pending criminal proceedings" and transfer of criminal
trial could not be done through a PIL.

The state sought dismissal of the petitions stating that the trial could not
proceed further because of the interim stay granted by the apex court.

Salve wanted the court to lay down proper guidelines on whether besides the
complainants victims too could approach the court and seek transfer of a
criminal case. He also wanted the court to address the issue of witness
protection.

When counsel for the state government objected to this, the court said that
the Gujarat violence cases were completely different wherein due procedure
contemplated under the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C.) was not followed by
the government, false cases were registered and innocent people were arrayed
as accused.

"This court is not powerless. When the criminal justice system and the
administration of justice in a state is in peril, it can intervene in public
interest," it observed.

While asking Salve to give a summary of the cases, the court also wanted him
to give suggestions on the larger issues to be decided.

The matter was posted for further hearing on Feb 20, 2007

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