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Riot rap on Akhilesh govt, ammo for rivals

New Delhi, March 26: The Supreme Court today held the Akhilesh Yadav government “prima facie” responsible for the violence in Muzaffarnagar but declined to order a CBI probe into the flare-up in which 62 people were killed and several women raped.

The court also ticked off the intelligence agencies at the Centre for failing to alert the Uttar Pradesh government to the possibility of impending clashes, eventually triggered by the harassment of a woman on September 7 last year. The clashes had broken out in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts.

The court’s conclusion is expected to have ramifications on the polls in Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP is hoping to do well and is crucial to its plans to wrest power at the Centre.

One of the BJP’s key opponents in the state is the ruling Samajwadi Party that banks heavily on minority votes. The BJP and the BSP — and the Congress to an extent — are likely to try to capitalise on the discomfort of the Samajwadi Party government after today’s judgment.

The Opposition has demanded the dismissal of the Akhilesh government and the BJP twisted the knife in the wound. “I want to know why these self-appointed guardians of secularism are not asking for the resignation of the chief minister. The Centre remained a mute spectator and did not draw on its constitutional powers to warn the Uttar Pradesh government or even issue an advisory,” BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi said in New Delhi.

In the court, Chief Justice P. Sathasivam said in the judgment: “We prima facie hold the state government responsible for being negligent at the initial stage in not anticipating the communal violence and for not taking necessary steps for its prevention.”

The judgment was delivered by a three-judge bench of Chief Justice Sathasivam and Justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and Ranjan Gogoi.

A citizen had filed a PIL seeking a CBI probe. Subsequently a number of organisations and other individuals had made a similar plea.

The apex court said today: “Though the central government even on Day One informed this court through the attorney-general of India that all necessary help, both financial and for maintaining law and order, had been provided to the state, there is no authoritative information to this court whether there was any advance intimation to the state about the communal violence.

“Likewise, though the state has enumerated several aspects in the form of 11 compliance reports, there is no information to this court whether the district administration was sounded about the proposed action between the two communities. Had the central and state intelligence agencies smelt these problems in advance and alerted the district administration, the unfortunate incidents could have been prevented.”

The court directed the state government to pay Rs 5 lakh each to the seven rape victims, besides other benefits they are entitled to, within four weeks. (See chart)

“No compensation can be adequate nor can it be of any respite for the victims but as the state has failed in protecting such serious violation of fundamental rights, the state is duty-bound to provide compensation, which may help in the victims’ rehabilitation.

“The humiliation or the reputation that is snuffed out cannot be recompensed but then monetary compensation will at least provide some solace,” the court said.

“Nevertheless, the obligation of the state does not extinguish on payment of compensation; rehabilitation of victim is also of paramount importance,” the bench said.