The Supreme Court of India Friday dismissed an appeal filed by Zakia Jafri alleging a “larger conspiracy” by then-Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi and 62 other senior state officials in connection with state riots in 2002. Jafri is the widow of Ehsan Jafri, a Congress party MP who was killed in the riots.
The 2002 Gujarat riots took place in the aftermath of a train-burning as a result of which 59 Hindus died. In one of the single worst massacres of the violence that lasted a week, a mob killed 69 Muslims in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, including Jafri’s husband.
In 2006, Jafri filed a complaint against the then-senior officials of the Gujarat state government, alleging inaction, complicity and conspiracy. Following the state police’s inaction and the high court’s dismissal of the complaint, Jafri appealed to the Supreme Court of India. The Supreme Court added her appeal to the mandate of a Special Investigative Team (SIT) constituted to investigate cases relating to the riots.
In 2011, the Supreme Court directed the SIT to present its report before an Ahmedabad lower court judge. Accordingly, the SIT submitted its final report in 2012. While the report absolved the accused state authorities, it also showed that the Supreme Court-appointed amicus curiae found prima facie offenses under sections 153A(1)(a) & (b), 153B(1)(c), 166, and 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code against the then-chief minister of Gujarat. The lower court judge accepted the report, and Jafri’s appeal against this decision was dismissed.
Jafri filed the present petition before the Supreme Court this year along with prominent human rights activist Teesta Setalvad. The petition alleged that the SIT had not investigated crucial aspects essential to establishing the larger conspiracy.
While dismissing the petition, the Supreme Court held that the inaction of “some officials of one section of the State administration” was insufficient to infer a pre-planned criminal conspiracy by the state authorities. The court also stated that the failure of certain officials to take action could not amount to a “State-sponsored crime against the minority community.”
The court found the SIT’s investigative approach and report “backed by firm logic” and “expositing analytical mind and dealing with all aspects objectively.” The court stated that a “meeting of minds” of the accused persons should be established to make out a case of larger criminal conspiracy which the appellants had not done.
The respondents heavily objected to Setalvad’s inclusion as an appellant. The Gujarat police’s Anti-Terrorism Squad took Setalvad and two others into custody on Saturday, on allegations of fabricating evidence, forgery and criminal conspiracy concerning the riots. Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, found Setalvad’s detention “deeply concern[ing]” and called for her release.