Gujarat HC seeks clarification from riots panel

The High Court asked the Nanavati Commission to clarify whether IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt was summoned by the panel as a witness or not.

Ahmedabad: The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday
asked the Nanavati Commission, probing the 2002 post-Godhra
riots, to clarify by July 8 whether IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt
was summoned by the panel as a witness or not.

The direction was given by a Division Bench of Chief
Justice SJ Mukhopadhaya and Justice JB Pardiwala while
hearing a petition of Jamiat-Ulma-Ae-Hind (JUH), challenging a
Commission order that rejected its plea opposing Bhatt`s cross
-examination by the State Government and other parties.
On June 22, the probe panel had rejected the JUH plea,
saying it was "devoid of merits".

Today when the matter came up for hearing, the Chief
Justice asked the Government to find out from the Commission
if they had called Bhatt, who was DCP (State Intelligence
Bureau) in 2002, as a witness or not.

The court also refused to grant a stay, sought by the
JUH, on proceedings of the Commission where cross-examination
of Bhatt by the State Government was on.

JUH counsel KG Vakahria told the court that the panel
itself had stated in its June 22 order that Bhatt, who has
made serious allegations against Chief Minister Narendra Modi
in connection with the riots, was not a witness.

The HC, however, said let them hear it from the
Commission and scheduled the next hearing on July 8.

JUH, in its petition, had sought quashing of the riots
inquiry panel`s order rejecting their application challenging
Bhatt`s cross-examination, alleging it was contrary to the
provisions of the Commission of Inquiry Act.

It contended that the Commission had seriously
misunderstood and misconstrued its powers under Sections 4 and
5 of the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952, and "overstepped its
limits and exceeded jurisdiction by engaging in a wrong
interpretation of Section 8C of the Act".

Bhatt was summoned by the panel last month for
questioning in connection with his affidavit in the Supreme
Court where he had claimed that Modi, on the night of February
27, 2002 (the day when Sabaramti Express was torched near
Godhra), had called a meeting where he instructed his officers
to allow Hindus "to vent out their anger" during the clashes
and he wanted Muslims to be "taught a lesson".

According to JUH, Bhatt cannot be cross-examined as he
was summoned under Section 5 (read with Section 4) of the
Commission of Inquiry Act, which means he was called as an
informant and not as a witness.

The IPS officer had been already cross-examined by the
Commission, Jan Sangharsh Manch (an NGO representing some of
the riot victims), Congress party and the Central Relief
Committee (CRC).


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