Ahmedabad: In a relief to Narendra Modi, the Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a trial court would hear the petition by Zakia Jafri, who alleged deliberate inaction on the part of the Gujarat Chief Minister in the killing of her husband Ehsan Jafri and dozens of others in Ahmedabad's Gulberg Society during the 2002 riots.
The plea by Jafri, the widow of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, also alleged inaction on the part of Modi's Cabinet colleagues and some high-ranking state officials.
The court said the magistrate, before deciding on the complaint by Zakia Jafri, would issue her a notice and afford her an opportunity to be heard.
The court also asked the special investigation team (SIT) headed by former Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director RK Raghvan to file its status report before the concerned magistrate.
The amicus curiae (friend of the court) Raju Ramachandran report, which differed with the findings of the SIT, is also to be referred to the magistrate.
After that, the magistrate will take a final call on the alleged involvement of people named in the FIR.
Emboldened by the Supreme Court’s ruling, Modi tweeted, “God is great.”
The SIT team had submitted its report on the riots to the Supreme Court in February this year.
Though the SIT report, which was leaked to media, does not directly indict Modi for the riots due to lack of evidence, his role has been criticised for trying to downplay the seriousness of the incidents.
His comment that "every action has an equal and opposition reaction" on the post Godhra riots has been particularly criticised in the report.
Modi-baiters have been consistently accusing him of aiding the rioters in 2002, a charge he has vehemently denied.
Today’s SC ruling is also politically important for Modi as it may hasten the process of his moving to national politics ahead of the next Lok Sabha polls.
Undoubtedly, Modi has, over the years, developed a cult image. Hidutva poster boy, Gujarat CEO, the adages are aplenty for the former RSS pracharak but the riots cases have been the albatross around his neck.
Welcoming the SC verdict, Gujarat government said due process of law has been completed and that there is no evidence of criminal conspiracy against Modi.
Government spokesperson Jai Narayan Vyas said that riot victims could have got justice far earlier had it not been for certain organisations out to tarnish the image of the Chief Minister. He reiterated that the state government will do all it can to provide succour to the riot victims.
The BJP felt it was a "victory" for the Chief Minister and he would now play a bigger role in national politics.
BJP leader Sushma Swaraj congratulated Modi, saying truth has won. "Narendrabhai has passed agnipareeksha today. My heartiest congratulations to him. Satyameva jayate. Varshon baad aaj satya ki vijay hui," she tweeted.
Her colleague Balbir Punj added: "It is not just a relief for Modi, but a victory for Modi."
Stressing that at no stage did the party believe Modi was involved, Punj said the Chief Minister would now "play a much larger role in the national political scene".
The Congress, on the other hand, said there was no clean chit as the case had gone to a lower court.
Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said: "Clean chit has not been given (to Narendra Modi). The case has been given to lower court."
He said Modi could not wash off "stain" of the 2002 riots.
Rights activist Teesta Setalvad, however, claimed that it was a huge step forward.
"Our demands that an FIR be registered in the riots case and the CBI be handed over the case have been accepted by the apex court," she said.
Stating the media should not "misunderstand the order", she emphasised that the Supreme Court's order was a complex one.
"The order was of due process and a huge step forward," she said.
That was scant consolation for Zakia Jafri, who told reporters in Surat that she was upset and disappointed.
"I am upset and disappointed with the Supreme Court's decision. I'm not saying that I don't believe in Supreme Court, but there is a possibility that they missed out on something.
"If the Supreme Court could not do anything, what can I expect from the lower court?"
Her husband was amongst the 69 people killed that February 28, 2002, in Gulberg housing society of Ahmedabad when murderous, armed mobs attacked, a day after the train burning in Godhra.
Initially, the government said that 38 people had been killed in Gulberg society. This was later revised to 69 after the SIT deemed in 2009 that all those missing would be counted amongst the dead.
The former Parliamentarian made numerous requests to police, political leaders, Chief Minister's office and his well wishers when the society was attacked. But no one came to his rescue.
(With IANS inputs)
First Published: Monday, September 12, 2011, 15:35