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November 23, 2006

Times of India

Godhra riot cases: SC snubs CM Modi

Dhananjay Mahapatra

NEW DELHI: Supreme Court on Wednesday virtually snubbed the Narendra Modi government as it sought dismissal of all PILs on post-Godhra riot cases saying such petitions could not be entertained by the court if one applied its own recent ruling.  
Gujarat government pleaded that the 'no PIL in criminal case' principle laid down recently by the court while dismissing a PIL against railway minister Lalu Prasad applies in equal vigour to the 2002 riot cases.  
Its counsel Sourav Kripal quoted the court's judgment: "Monitoring of pending trial is subversion of criminal law as it stands to mean that the court behind the back of the accused is entering into a dialogue with the investigating agency. Therefore, there can be no monitoring after the chargesheet is filed."  
He said chargesheets have been filed in all the important 17 cases, in which trial has been stayed after the PIL petitioners sought reinvestigation and shifting of the case outside Gujarat accusing the police of being hand-in-glove with the accused.  
Counsel for the accused in riot cases, senior advocate K T S Tulsi, said by entertaining the PILs and passing directions on reopening of cases, SC is inventing a new criminal jurisprudence and moving away from CrPC. After patiently hearing counsel for some time, the Bench virtually gave it back to both.  
"Supreme Court has the larger interest in protecting the administration of criminal justice system. It cannot remain a silent spectator when the police goes on subverting the procedure established under CrPC. And then, it is not open to others to argue that the court should stick strictly to the procedure established under CrPC," it said.  
It agreed that while dealing with the PILs in the post-Godhra riot cases, the court might have moved a "little away" from the procedure established under the CrPC, but in the same vein, it justified such departure saying the facts and circumstances of the cases as well as the manner of investigations were also different from normal.  
"Post-mortem examination of the dead bodies were not done, the doctors conducting the post-mortem were not examined, bodies were buried without informing the relatives... How can you say that everything was done in accordance with the procedure established under law?" the Bench counter-questioned counsel for the accused.  
Amicus curiae Harish Salve said the old theory in criminal jurisprudence that a criminal case is between the state and the accused needed a fresh look as now countries have began recognising the rights of the victims or their relatives in a criminal trial.  
He said that there was something amiss in Gujarat is clear from the fact that the apex court transferred trials of the Best Bakery case and the Bilkis Banu gangrape case outside the state.