The questioning of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in connection with the Gulbarg riots post-Godhra is a "very big step forward" in trying to understand and unravel the mysteries in the case and the SIT will submit its report to the Supreme Court on or before April 30, its head R K Raghavan said on Sunday.
Raghavan said he was happy that the Special Investigation Team, appointed by the Supreme Court, could get the Chief Minister for questioning and that it will have to appreciate the evidence before making any comments on the issue.
"It is a very big step forward in trying to understand and unravel quite a few mysteries in the matter...I am happy that we were able to get the CM for questioning. I have to appreciate the evidence," Raghavan told a news channel.
Raghavan said that the petition of Zakia Jafri, wife of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri who was killed along with 68 others in the Gulbarg Housing Society riots in 2002, was the SIT's "bible" and questions broadly related to it.
"I have greatest concern for the victims and I have never failed to take my eye away from justice. I am conscious of the sacred trust given by the Supreme Court," the SIT chief said.
Raghavan said broadly, he and Malhotra had discussed the questions to be put to Modi but he has not yet discussed the answers with him. "He (Malhotra) looks fresh and relaxed. I have not spoken to him (about the answers).
Asked why he did not question Modi, Raghavan said as the chief of SIT, he does not meet the witnesses or the accused and it is a job done by the investigating officer or the inquiry officer.
"It is a good old practice that is followed by CBI...the director never does the examination. I have brought in this practice here. Its a fair and healthy practice," he said.
Asked whether the SIT will call Modi again for questioning if needed, he said, "I have to look at the evidence that has been collected. I have to look at what he had told Malhotra."
He said the SIT has the right to recall if there were "gaps" and that applied to any witness. "I broadly knew what the questions were going to be. Actually we sat down, had a session. We broadly agreed on what we should quiz him on."
Replying to a question, he said he will not go into details of the questioning. "I respect the functional authority of the investigating officer. I cannot say do this or do that," the SIT chief said.
Asked if the questioning went beyond Gulbarg riots, he said he would not like to go into details. "Our bible is Zakia's petition."
On whether 62 questions were put to Modi, he said it seems an "imaginary figure".
"Let him (Malhotra) give his report. I won't breath down his neck. The fact that I have brought in Malhotra shows I have tremendous respect for him."
To a question about the delay in SIT doing its job and allegations of bias, Raghavan said one must understand that he had kept away all Gujarat officers (in Modi questioning).
"They (the SIT officers) have done a good job. Let the court give its verdict," he said.
Asked when the SIT report would be submitted to the apex court, Raghavan said, "I am reasonably confident that I will meet the deadline of April 30...we will submit it on or before April 30."
Asked whether the Chief Minister fully cooperated in the questioning, Raghavan said, "The fact that he came we are happy. There has been an active dialogue.
"Malhotra seems satisfied. I suppose it was a satisfactory interaction between the Chief Minister and Malhotra," he said.
On whether he was under any political pressure, Raghavan said, "Do I look like a man under pressure? I am relaxed. (I was under) absolutely no pressure. I am doing my duty."
He also declined comment on a question whether an FIR will be registered on the basis of questioning of the Chief Minister on Zakia's petition.
Raghavan on Sunday parried questions on Narendra Modi's claim that he had not been asked to appear before it on March 21 specifically after he failed to turn up for questioning that day.
When asked to comment on the confusion over the date, Raghavan said, "that is a history, I do not like to go into history but like to go forward". On March 11, the SIT had said that Modi will be questioned on March 21. However, he did not turn up at the SIT office. A day later, Modi, in an open letter, claimed that he was not called by the Supreme Court appointed SIT on that date. In reply to a question on whether they had issued a summon or a notice to the chief minister, Raghavan said "that is also a history, he came, appeared that's all".
"It is a direction of the Supreme Court. Whatever the Supreme Court says is law," Raghavan said when he was asked whether they had called Modi for questioning under CrPC. Modi was called for questioning yesterday in a complaint by Zakia Jaffery, wife of ex-MP Eshan Jaffery who was killed in 2002 Gulburg society riot case along with 69 others. PTI