New Delhi, Mar 26: The Supreme Court today has directed the Gujarat Government to constitute a Special Investigation Team (SIT) within 10 days to re-investigate about ten cases of the post-Godhra communal riots.
A bench headed by Justice Arjit Pasayat said the SIT would need to submit its report in a sealed cover to the apex court within three months. The SIT would be free to evoke its own modalities for the purpose of carrying out investigations into the cases, the court said. The five-member SIT will comprise three senior IPS officers from Gujarat, Gita Johri, Sivananad Jha and Ashish Bhatia, besides retired CBI Director R.K. Raghavan and former DGP C.B. Satpathy. While Raghavan would be the chairman of the SIT, Johri would be the convener of the team. The ten cases relating to rioting in seven places, including Godhra where 81 people were killed, Gulbarga Society where 68 were killed, Naroda Patia where over 100 were killed, Sardarpur where 34 were killed and Best Bakery where 14 burnt alive are expected to be reinvestigated.
The apex court indicated its intention to constitute the SIT after hearing Amicus Curiae and senior counsel Harish Salve and the Gujarat Government's senior counsel Mukul Rohatagi for over an hour. Gujarat witnessed communal riots between February and May 2002. The riots broke out after 58 people were burnt alive in a coach of the Sabarmathi Express in Godhra on February 27, following an altercation between members of the two communities.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had filed the petition seeking transfer of the trial of the riots' cases outside Gujarat and a re-investigation by an independent agency like the CBI after several witnesses turned hostile amidst allegations of threat, coercion and inducement to derail the investigation. According to official figures over 1,000 people were killed in the violence. However, rights groups and NGOs put the figure higher, at 2000. Over 1.5 lakh people were displaced during the riots.