New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Special Investigation Team (SIT) not to make public Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's statement in connection with post-Godhra riots and disapproved the conduct of activist Teesta Setalvad in contacting a prosecutor in one of the cases.
"We direct the SIT not to divulge any information collected during the course of investigation to anyone except the trial court and public prosecutor concerned," a special bench headed by Justice D K Jain said.
The direction came when it was pointed out to the bench by the SIT that the Commission headed by Justice G T Nanavati, probing the sequence of events in the 2002 riot cases, has sought the statement of Modi recorded by the investigating team. "We direct that the statement shall not be supplied to the Commission," the bench, also comprising Justices P Sathasivam and Aftab Alam, said.
Modi's statement was recorded by the SIT on March 27-28 in connection with the riots at the Gulbarg society in Ahmedabad in which senior Congress leader Ehsan Jaffri was killed. The bench also took strong exception to Teesta Setalvad contacting a prosecutor after an application of a victim was rejected by the trial court. "We cannot appreciate this. It is very serious," the bench said and read out the comment of the supervising officer Ashish Bhatia, who is a senior IPS officer.
It was alleged that after an application moved by advocate Salim Sheikh was rejected by the trial court, Setalvad on July 19 had telephoned Special Public Prosecutor R C Kodekar and allegedly threatened to make complaint in the apex court for objecting the plea. Setalvad, who was present in the courtroom, admitted calling Kodekar but said the allegations were false and she only spoke about the witnesses.
The bench said it will accept her explanation but will pass a formal order as such conduct was "unacceptable". "We are making it clear that henceforth nobody except the Chairman and members of the SIT will be in touch with the public prosecutors.
"We also direct that if the SPPs engaged to conduct trials of various cases want some inputs or faces difficulty, they can keep themselves in touch with only the Chairman or the members of the SIT for redressal of the same," the bench said while making it clear that it was ending the matter here itself. However, after passing of the order, advocate Kamini Jaiswal, raised objection to Bhatia continuing as the member of the SIT on the ground that the IGP comes from the Gujarat cadre.
Jaiswal's remarks did not go well with the bench prompting it to say, "You are reopening the issue".
Meanwhile, the court issued a show cause notice to the Maharashtra Government for not relieving senior IPS officer Dr K Venkateshan, who has been identified as one of the two members to be included in the SIT after two Gujarat cadre officers, Geeta Johri and Shivanand Jha, were moved out of the the probe panel by the apex court.
"Notice be issued to the Maharashtra Government to show cause as to why a direction be not issued to it to release the officer to join SIT constituted by this court," the bench said and sought the state government's response within a week.
Former CBI Director and Chairman of the SIT, R K Raghavan said the other member Y C Modi, a senior Assam cadre IPS officer, has already joined the panel. Raghavan told the bench that he had communication with the Home Ministry regarding the appointment of Venkateshan, who is an officer of high integrity and competence but the Maharashtra Government was not willing to relieve him. Other member is C P Satpathy, a former DGP of Uttar Pradesh.
The bench also dismissed an application of an NGO led by Setalvad seeking that the names of new members of the SIT should be placed before the judges ahead of their appointment.
"We do not find any merit to modify our order in this regard," the bench said, adding that the counsel should have faith in the members of the investigating team. The court posted the matter for further hearing on September 30.
The SIT is monitoring 10 cases of 2002 Gujarat riots on the directions of the apex court. The cases relate to Gulberg Society, Ode, Sardarpura, Narodao Gaon, Naroda Patya, Baranpura, Machipith, Tarsali, Pandarwada and Raghavapura. PTI