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Apex court removes two Gujarat cops from riots probe panel

Wednesday, April 07, 2010 04:13:15 AM, IANS

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday removed two senior Gujarat police officers from its special probe panel investigating various cases of the post-Godhra communal riots in the state.

A bench of Justice D.K. Jain, Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Aftab Alam took Gujarat Inspector General of Police Geetha Johri and Deputy Inspector General of Police Shivanand Jha off the special investigation team, headed by former Central Bureau of Investigation director A.K. Raghvan.

Ram Jethmalani, appearing for a former Gujarat legislator, raised serious questions over the legality of the apex court's for probe and trial in various cases of the 2002 Gujarat riot cases. The probe panel has been asked to probe the former legislator's alleged role in the violence.

Jethmalani raised the questions during the hearing on a plea by civil right activists Teesta Setalvad, accusing some officers of the probe panel of keeping away from the trial court crucial evidence on the role of politicians and police officers in fomenting trouble in the state.

Setalvad had also sought halting of the trial and reconstitution or substitution of the special probe panel.

"As a senior most member of the bar with 68 years of experience, I am sitting here blindfolded for the last one hour. I fail to understand what is going on here," said Jethmalani as senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Gujarat government, sought to oppose Setalvad's plea.

The court cannot go on passing orders (on the issue) without hearing the state, contended Rohatgi as the bench indicated its tentative agreement with the views of special counsel Harish Salve, appointed by the court to assist it, to halt the trial.

"The whole thing has become a laughing stock," said Rohatgi, adding that first the special probe panel was created by the court and now its probe is being questioned without hearing the state government.

Jethmalani questioned the legality over various orders of the court, including its April 27, 2009 order for probe into the role of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and 62 other politicians and officials in the communal riots.

He contended that the apex court bench of Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice A.K. Ganguly had ordered the probe against Modi and 62 others without hearing them.

Jethmalani said whatever orders had been passed by the court at different stages were "wrong and illegal".

He contended that the orders were passed neither under the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code nor under Article 142 of the Constitution, which accords an extra-ordinary power to the apex court to pass any order "to do complete justice".

At this the bench sarcastically sought to know from Jethmalani the rule under which he thinks that the court had passed its order.

At this, Jethmalani shot back that how could he say under what law it passed the orders.

"Justice is not a layman's search for truth. It is a game to be played according to the rules. Here it is not being played according to any rule," said Jethmalani.

The bench adjourned the matter for further hearing on April 19.






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