The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Arrogant label on Gujarat govt

New Delhi, May 6: The Supreme Court came down heavily on the Gujarat government yet again today, calling it “arrogant” for seeking to get the court’s Best Bakery retrial order modified.

“The application (for modification) shows your arrogance. The highest court of this land has passed an order and you are not prepared to accept it,” the bench of Justices Doraiswamy Raju and Arijit Passayat said.

Chief minister Narendra Modi’s riot woes were further compounded when a local court in Gujarat today issued him a summons in a Rs 22-crore compensation suit filed over the death of two British nationals of Indian origin in the post-Godhra carnage.

The apex court’s observation followed additional solicitor-general Mukul Rohtagi’s contention that the transfer to Maharashtra was made on a petition that did not seek the shift and the court had no “suo motu” power to order such transfer. The directive, he added, had also demoralised the state judiciary.

The judges shot back: “We know our powers. Under Article 136 of the Constitution...for providing substantive justice we need to go by technicalities...we can give relief.”

The court’s retrial-cum-transfer order had been passed on an appeal by Zahira Sheikh, the key witness to the Bakery carnage in which 14 people were killed.

While doing so, the apex court had made the scathing observation that “modern-day Neros were looking the other way when Best Bakery, innocent children and women were burning and perhaps were contemplating how to protect the perpetrators”.

In its subsequent plea for retrial in Gujarat, the state had also sought expunging of this observation.

Cutting short Rohtagi when he broached the subject, the judges said: “We never tried to identify the persons... (modern-day Neros).... It is after the judgment that they are trying to identify themselves with this act (of filing the review application).”

A stunned Rohtagi apologised “if he or the application had hurt the (court’s) sentiments”. “If at all you have hurt something or is...this institution and the profession,” the judges shot back.

“You (the state) cannot just browbeat the Supreme Court like this,” they further observed while referring to the contention “that the court did not give proper opportunity to the state”.

“If this happens to the Supreme Court, we shudder to think what will happen to the high court or other subordinate courts,” the judges said.

The court reserved its order on the maintainability of the state’s application, which would come up for further hearings in July.

The civil court of Himmatnagar asked Modi and 13 others, including then home minister Gordhan Zadaphia, now retired director-general of police K. Chakravarthy and home secretary Ashok Narain, to file their replies by June 24 in the compensation suit filed by the victims’ widows and a survivor of the February 28, 2002, attack near Wadwasa village.

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