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Supreme Court quizzes former judge who headed Gujarat probe

Posted in S. Asia

Published on December 17, 2018 with No Comments

Supreme Court of India has asked one of its former judges to respond to the Gujarat government’s allegation that he had taken “unilateral action” in submitting a committee’s final report on alleged fake-encounter killings in the state without ascertaining the views of fellow panel members.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi has asked Justice H.S. Bedi to “communicate his views as expeditiously as possible” on the allegation.

The top court had in 2012 set up the monitoring committee under Justice Bedi as chairperson to oversee investigations by the Gujarat Special Task Force (STF) to probe 24 alleged fake-encounter killings. The alleged encounters had taken place between 2002 and 2006, when Narendra Modi was the state’s chief minister.

A petition filed jointly by lyricist Javed Akhtar and journalist B.G. Verghese had sought a CBI probe into the killings on the ground that they had no faith in the state STF.“It appears from all the incidents of fake encounters, a pattern has emerged of killing innocent people, particularly Muslims, on the pretext of them being members of the dreaded terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed and there being a conspiracy to kill the then chief minister Narendra Modi,” the petition had alleged.

The court had allowed the STF to continue with the probe but set up the monitoring committee to oversee its functioning.

The committee has till now submitted 11 reports on the status of investigations into the case. But when the matter came up for hearing, solicitor-general Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the Gujarat government, said the 11th and final report that Justice Bedi submitted in February this year did not contain the views of the other members.

The committee also included the state’s police chief, a member of the state human rights commission, district judges where the alleged encounters took place and the director-general of the state’s forensic department.

Mehta told the court all the 10 earlier reports submitted to the court in sealed covers had been given after every other panel member had expressed their views.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, who appeared for the petitioners, submitted that as chairperson of the committee, Justice Bedi was entitled to give his views on the investigations and the views of the other members were not necessary.The bench, which also included Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K.M. Joseph, said the question whether Justice Bedi alone could give his views or must take the views of the others “is a debatable issue” which the court did not intend to go into at this stage.

“Having perused the interim reports and the 11th (final) report submitted on 26.2.2018 and having noticed the tenor thereof, we are of the view that at this stage, we should request Justice Bedi to inform the Court as to whether the final report submitted on 26.2.2018 was shared with other members of the Monitoring Authority and whether Justice Bedi as the chairman of the monitoring authority appointed by this court by its previous orders, considers it necessary to take the views of the other members of the monitoring authority if the 11th (final) report has been submitted unilaterally by the learned judge,” the bench said in a written order.

“We would request Justice Bedi to communicate his views as expeditiously as possible to enable the court to take up the matter on reopening of the court after the winter break, on 9.1.2019. The 11th (final) report submitted by Justice Bedi on 26.2.2018 along with all copies thereof, which have been placed before us, be resealed and kept in sealed covers only until further orders.”

Mehta had during the hearing also contended that the petitioners had not come to the court for a “bonafide” cause as they were seeking a CBI probe only for encounters that took place in Gujarat.

“There is a rampant abuse of your Lordships’ jurisdiction, why is the public conscience and the public spirit restricted to encounters in a particular state?” Mehta asked.“We are not going into all those issues now -the bonafides of the petitioners,” Justice Gogoi said.












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