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Gujarat riot prosecutors

Ahmedabad, Oct. 11: Chastised by the Supreme Court for its callousness in handling riot cases, the Gujarat government has appointed four new public prosecutors to handle major riot cases — Godhra, Naroda-Patia, Gulbarg Society and Sardarpura.

The new list of prosecutors, prepared two days ago by advocate-general S.. Shelat, has been sent to former solicitor-general Harish Salve — appointed amicus curiae by the apex court to monitor and assist Gujarat High Court.

The appointment of public prosecutors to replace those with Sangh parivar links has raised hopes of fair trial under the watchful eyes of the Supreme Court, which has put the lower judiciary and administration on alert.

It had been alleged that the BJP government had selected public prosecutors for the riot cases in such a manner that “ideology, rather than competence, has taken precedence”.

VHP general secretary Dilip Trivedi, who was appointed public prosecutor to handle the cases of Sardarpura and Visnagar where over 40 persons were killed, has been pulled out from these cases.

These will be now handled by special prosecutor S.C. Shah. Special prosecutor V.P. Atre will now handle Naroda-Patia, replacing VHP supporter Chetan Shah, who was appointed public prosecutor on May 18. However, Chetan Shah, who has been on the VHP’s advocate panel for two decades, will remain a public prosecutor.

“You should see some of these government pleaders in action. Instead of pinning down the accused, they seem to be pleading their cases,” says Yusuf Charkha, a Godhra lawyer.

It did not surprise many when Raghuvir Pandya, the prosecutor in the Best Bakery case, chose not to examine the accused during the trial as Pandya had contested the civic elections in the eighties as a BJP candidate.

Trivedi, however, defends the appointment of VHP activists. “Do the people expect the BJP to appoint the supporters of the Congress as public prosecutors' Whichever political party comes to power, it appoints its men in key positions. In court I am an advocate. But when I am with the VHP, I perform as is6 expected.”

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