Ahmedabad/New Delhi, Feb 1 (IANS) Giving a reprieve to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the state high court Wednesday rejected a petition seeking his deposition before the Nanavati-Mehta commission probing the 2002 communal riots in the state.
Reacting to the development, the Congress said the Modi government will be judged by its inaction and culpability in the 2002 riots while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said that all efforts to ‘sully Modi’s political image were coming to naught’.
A division bench of the high court rejected the application of NGO Jan Sangharsh Manch seeking directions to the Nanavati commission to summon Modi in connection with the riots. It observed that the commission had discretionary powers to call witnesses.
‘The court has dismissed the appeal filed by NGO Jan Sangharsh Manch challenging the order of the commission on the ground that the commission has rightly exercised its discretion,’ Gujarat government counsel Devang Nanavati said.
‘The commission’s order giving reasons for the discretion has been upheld and vindicated by the Gujarat High Court. So certainly, Modi’s stand has been vindicated,’ he added.
The Jan Sangharsh Manch, representing some riot victims, had filed the petition after the commission rejected its application seeking Modi’s deposition. The NGO said it will now move the Supreme Court.
‘We will move the apex court on this issue. The state government had itself asked the commission to inquire into Modi’s role in the riots. It is only proper that Modi should have deposed before the commission,’ said lawyer and activist, Mukul Sinha, who filed the petition.
Saying that the state government had given the probe panel liberty to examine the conduct of chief minister, Sinha said that cross-examination will enable the truth to come out.
In New Delhi, the BJP said that efforts to take away attention from Modi’s good governance were proving futile.
‘Efforts to sully Mr Modi’s political image and take away attention from his good governance were coming to naught,’ party leader Balbir Punj said.
Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said people will judge Modi government by ‘its culpability’ in the 2002 riots.
‘Despite the hype about the vibrant Gujarat, the Modi government will be judged by its inaction and culpabality,’ he said.
Asked about Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit’s praise of Modi for his development work, Tewari said ‘it (her remarks) was a slip of tongue’.
The Gujarat government had set up a commission of inquiry headed by retired high court judge K.G. Shah on March 6, 2002 to enquire into the Godhra train burning and the subsequent communal violence and submit a report in three months. On May 22, 2002, the state government reconstituted the commission under retired Supreme Court judge G.T. Nanavati.
Over 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, died in violent clashes after the S-6 coach of the Sabarmati Express carrying kar sevaks returning to Gujarat from Ayodhya was torched at Godhra railway station on Feb 27, 2002.