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Petition in bin, Zakia breaks down

Zakia Jafri sheds a tear at a media interaction after her petition was rejected on Thursday. (PTI)

Ahmedabad, Dec. 26: A Gujarat magistrate today rejected riot widow Zakia Jafri’s protest petition against a special investigation team’s closure report that had cleared Narendra Modi of alleged involvement in one of the worst massacres of the 2002 pogrom.

Zakia, who broke down in the packed courtroom, said she was “very disappointed” but wouldn’t “give up the fight”.

A relieved Modi tweeted “Satyamev Jayate. Truth alone triumphs!” soon after the afternoon verdict in the Gulbarg Housing Society case, the only lawsuit that accused the BJP’s 2014 mascot of complicity in the violence.

Metropolitan magistrate B.J. Ganatra said “no conspiracy” could be proved against either Modi or his cabinet. “(The) SIT closure report is accepted and prayers made in the protest petition are rejected.”

The verdict came over 10 months after the Supreme Court allowed Zakia to file the protest petition against the November 2012 order of a trial court that had dismissed her plea challenging the closure report.

Zakia’s husband, former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, died in the attack on the housing society, burnt alive along with 69 others in the February 28, 2002, massacre — one of the worst in the riots that broke out after the early-morning Godhra train fire the day earlier.

Zakia had alleged that Modi delayed sending police to the spot despite repeated requests and accused the chief minister and many others, including ministers and police officers, of involvement in the larger conspiracy behind the riots, that left over a 1,000 people dead.

The SIT, formed by the apex court to investigate her complaint, had concluded there was no basis to proceed against the chief minister.

What metropolitan magistrate B.J. Ganatra said on Thursday in the Gulbarg Society massacre

The magistrate agreed with the conclusion, saying: “No conspiracy can be proved against chief minister Modi and his cabinet as they showed alacrity in requisitioning the army and took necessary steps to control the situation.”

Ganatra also said the court “finds it difficult to say that Modi deliberately ignored his duty” during the riots.

The magistrate rejected the testimonies of two prime witnesses — IPS officers Sanjiv Bhatt and R.B. Sreekumar. “After a thorough study of the statements made by Bhatt and Sreekumar when compared with the material on hand, the court feels that prima facie they are incredible,” the order said.

Bhatt, in an affidavit before the Supreme Court, had claimed he was present at a meeting at the chief minister's residence on February 27, 2002, and alleged that Modi instructed police officers to allow Hindus to vent their ire after the Godhra train fire that killed 58 people, mostly kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya.

“The allegations made by Bhatt cannot be substantiated in any form and the SIT has also established the fact that he was not present at the meeting,” the order said.

“Based on the material available on record and arguments put forward by different counsels, the court is of the view that (the) complainant’s allegations are general in nature and vague.”

“You will have to approach the higher court. I am rejecting your protest petition,” Ganatra told Zakia’s lawyer Mihir Desai.

A teary-eyed Zakia said she would not give up the fight. “I will appeal against it (the verdict) in the higher court and I will get justice,” she said.

Rights activist Teesta Setalvad, who has been supporting Zakia in her quest for justice, said she was “disappointed but not disheartened”.

Senior lawyer Raju Ramachandran, appointed amicus curiae by the Supreme Court to independently verify the SIT investigations, had also submitted his report to the Supreme Court. According to Zakia, it had sufficient grounds to put Modi and others on trial.

“Today’s verdict is not the end, it is just a first step. We have to carry on our legal battle…. We feel the judgment is wrong, though we have not seen the reasons. Evidence collected by the SIT itself was sufficient to prosecute Modi,” said Zakia’s lawyer Desai.

Did it mean Modi was safe now? “Let him relax for 20-25 days,” Desai replied. “We are going to approach the higher court at the earliest. All options are option.”

SIT counsel R.S. Jamuar said the “integrity” and “impartially” of the investigators had been given a “judicial stamp”.

SIT head R.K. Raghavan, a former CBI director, said he felt “vindicated” and “professionally satisfied”.