What the Amicus really told the Supreme Court: Prosecute Modi!
Amicus Curiae Raju Ramachandran had recommended prosecuting Narendra Modi on several grounds. Ashish Khetan scoops his report
In the past week the media has been reporting that the SIT has filed a closure report that gives a “clean chit” to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on the grounds that there is no prosecutable evidence against him.
However, Tehelka has now scooped amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran’s explosive confidential report that had told the Supreme Court that Modi should be chargesheeted and prosecuted for serious criminal offences like promoting religious enmity, doing acts prejudicial to national integration and maintenance of harmony and deliberately and wantonly disobeying the law with intent to cause injury. Ramachandran recommended criminal prosecution against Modi under different cognizable and non-cognizable offences with some of them carrying a maximum imprisonment for three years.
Importantly, Ramachandran, a senior Supreme Court lawyer who was appointed as Amicus Curiae by the three judge bench of the Supreme Court in November 2010, had made these recommendations based on the SIT’s own probe reports
. It appears the only gap is in the conclusions that SIT Chairman RK Raghavan and the amicus curiae came to, based on what the SIT had found.
Raghavan had claimed in his concluding remarks that there was no “prosecutable evidence” to chargesheet Modi and direct him to stand trial. However, after carefully studying statements of witnesses and accused recorded by the SIT and other documentary evidence collected by the probe agency and also his own interactions with several key witnesses, Ramachandran came to a different conclusion and, in a hard-hitting report, told the Supreme Court and the SIT that Modi needed to be chargesheeted on several counts and to draw any other inference or legal action like dropping the charges altogether as proposed by the SIT was illogical and legally untenable. Ramachandran had placed his report before the court in May 2011 after over eight months of perusing several SIT reports which recommended that the case against Modi should be closed as there was no prosecutable evidence against him.
Over the last week, media reports have been speculating about Ramachandran’s recommendation, with some publications going to the extent of claiming that Ramachandran and SIT Chairman RK Raghvan had completely concurred on all the conclusions drawn by the SIT and had together recommended the closure of the case against Modi.
Now that Tehelka has got first hand access of Ramachandran’s report, it finds far from dropping the case, the amicus curiae had in fact recommended criminal prosecution against the Gujarat Chief Minister for his role in the 2002 Gujarat riots under sections 153A, 153B, 166 and 505 of Indian Penal Code. Conviction under these sections carry a jail term of between one to three years.
Ramachandran’s recommendations if followed would have had an unprecedented impact on the Indian criminal justice system which often sees the powerful being let off either because of sloppy investigation or dilatory legal proceedings. The amicus’s report demolished the core argument put forth by the SIT for not pressing charges against Modi, which is lack of prosecutable evidence. He first defined the relevant sections applicable to Modi, laid down their legal scope and then cited several Supreme Court case laws before emphatically concluding that Modi should be sent to trial.
Though there were also many points on which he concurred with SIT Chairman Raghavan the main point of concurrence was that, on the basis of material gathered by the SIT so far, there was not enough ground to charge Modi of conspiracy. However, he held that dropping all other criminal charges against Modi was legally untenable. His report demonstrates that the impediment in the course of justice for the riots of Gujarat 2002 is neither lack of evidence nor lack of law. If anything, the problem lies with a disturbingly selective application of law.
These are the sections under which Ramachandran recommended Modi should be chargesheeted and tried:
Section 505 IPC
lays down the punishment for making statements which promote enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes and prescribes punishment which may extend to imprisonment of three years.
Section 166 IPC
prescribes a maximum imprisonment of one year for those public servants who knowingly disobey any direction of law, as to the way in which he is to conduct himself s such public servant, intending to cause injury to any person. SIT itself has chronicled several instances where Modi’s conduct was divisive and prejudiced against the minorities and thus against his constitutional duty of protecting the life and property of every citizen of the state. SIT Chairman RK Raghavan had noted on page 13 of his report dated 13 May 2010 give to the SC that Modi’s statement “accusing some elements in Godhra and the neighbourhood as possessing a criminal tendency was sweeping and offensive coming as it did from a chief minister, that too at a critical time when Hindu-Muslim tempers were running high.
Section 153A IPC
lays down maximum imprisonment of 3 years for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, etc and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony. The SIT report had stated on page 69 that, “In spite of the fact that ghastly and violent attacks had taken place on Muslims at Gulberg Society and elsewhere, the reaction of the government was not the type that would have been expected by anyone. The chief minister had tried to water down the seriousness of the situation at Gulberg Society, Naroda Patiya and other places by saying that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.”
Similarly, Section 153B
lays down a maximum imprisonment of three years for making imputations or assertions prejudicial to national integration.
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Tehelka - India's Independent Weekly News Magazine