vii. Subversion of the Criminal Justice System:

Subservience of the Indian Police Service (IPS) association   

  • The terror instilled in the minds of the Gujarat bureaucracy is evident in the fact that the IPS association’s Gujarat unit did not dare to convene a meeting until about three years after the genocide. A meeting of the IPS association’s Gujarat unit was finally convened in August 2005 with an aim to install a pro-government group of officers as office bearers. A campaign was launched to install DG Vanzara as secretary (the main functionary in the association) without holding any elections at all. Fortunately, however, elections were held and DIGP Satish Verma defeated Vanzara by a margin of 13 votes (Verma won 31 votes while Vanzara won 18). 
     
  • The Gujarat police force has about 8,000 vacancies at the constabulary level and about 950 vacancies at the level of police sub-inspector (PSI). These vacancies are in crucial functional posts. The inadequacy of trained and skilled human resources has had damaging effects on the efficiency, dedication and professionalism of the Gujarat police even as it undermines the quality of service delivered to the people. Overworked and under tremendous stress, the policemen at the constabulary and PSI level take the line of least resistance in matters of policing vis-à-vis the interests of the ruling BJP. Submitting to illegal directives from leaders of the ruling party is the only way they can survive.
     
  • As part of a so-called economy measure, the state government has introduced a new cadre of “Lok Rakshaks” under which persons are hired for policing (eventually to replace the constabulary) at a meagre Rs 2,500 per month. A group of senior citizens headed by former DGP, PB Malia, has filed a petition in the Gujarat High Court asking that the scheme be declared illegal.

Detailed Examples of Subversion by the State Machinery

Shri Rahul Sharma was the Superintendent of Police (SP), Bhavnagar at the time of the riots in 2002. He is currently posted with the CBI.Sharma was one of the few officers who performed his bounden duties during the communal carnage.  

He led his men from the front to prevent an attack on a boarding school that housed more than 400 Muslim children on March 1, 2002. He was soon he was transferred out of Bhavnagar. Sharma filed an affidavit before the Nanavati-Shah Commission in July 2002 and testified before the commission in October 2004.

To view his complete affidavit see: Rahul Sharma affidavit

Briefly, Rahul Sharama’s affidavit narrates the tale of collusion between sections of the law and order machinery and communal elements from the ruling BJP, RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal.  

He annexes a letter that he had written to the then state DGP, K. Chakravarti, on March 24, 2002. This relates to an incident that took place in Bhavnagar on March 23, 2002 when a local madrassa was under attack by a mob, following which 21 accused were arrested by the police. He writes: “Following the arrest of the 21 accused in connection with the offence, about 200 women went to the police station that very evening along with the local leaders demanding that the accused be presented before the magistrate immediately and well before the 24 hours that the police could keep them in custody. The city DySP and the PI (police inspector) of ‘A’ division police station assured the leaders and the womenfolk that they would be presented before the magistrate on the same day.”

Sharma insisted that the accused would have to spend a day in the lock-up. Again, he was approached by “some prominent political figures urging me (Sharma) to assist in securing an early bail for the accused.” Sharma did not oblige.  

Sharma says he was convinced the incident “was pre-planned and premeditated.” He says in his letter that he also feared that these antisocial elements could be operating at the behest of some political masters who had assured them of all legal aid, including an early release from custody. Sharma felt “it was a well thought of plan to keep the communal issue alive till such time elections were to be announced”.  

On March 21, a BJP leader told Sharma that elections were now a “near certainty.” 

In his letter to the DGP, Sharma goes on to firmly state that “a message should not be conveyed to the public in general that you can indulge in rioting, arson and stone pelting and can get away with it if you know someone well enough in the government, or, worse still, it you are acting at the behest of those persons. Such an impression about the police would be catastrophic for the district. In Bhavnagar, till date, there is no charge of a partisan role being played by the police.”  

The affidavit puts down in detail the repeated attempts made by politically powerful persons to attack the Akwada Madressa in Bhavnagar and also to attack other Muslim dominated areas of the city from March 1, 2002 onwards.  

Concerned with placing all the facts before the commission, Sharma has enclosed, with his affidavit:

  • a list of persons who died during the communal incidents
  • a list of persons who died or were injured in police firing
  • detailed reports and records of police firings and records of messages received and sent by wireless

In his deposition before the commission, Sharma states (as he did earlier in his affidavit) that he had recommended action against the Sandesh newspaper for publication of inflammatory material on February 28, 2002.  

He also stated that he had ordered the arrest of Kishore Bhatt, Bhavnagar’s Shiv Sena chief, who was among those who made inflammatory speeches in Bhavnagar.  

After being shunted out from Bhavnagar, Sharma was appointed as DCP (Control Room), Ahmedabad.

In his new post he was entrusted with the work of assisting in the investigations being conducted by the crime branch. He was specifically asked by P.C. Pande to assist in the investigation of Naroda Patiya and Gulberg Society cases which were being handled by SS Chudasama, then ACP, Crime Brach. (Chudasama, incidentally, is one of the policemen who have been implicated in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Kauserbi encounter cases.)  

Sharma states that in all these sensitive cases, “more and more political leaders were being involved”. It was in the course of these investigations that the joint CP (JCP) (crime branch), PP Pandey, had ordered investigations into the telephone records. 

On June 4, Pandey called Sharma for a meeting. He then called for the Naroda Patiya case papers. Sharma was shown all the investigation papers and the JCP asked him to assess whether the investigation was being conducted properly. Initially Sharma said he needed time to make an assessment but Pandey insisted he should do it right away. According to the charge sheet, the violence in Naroda took place “because one person ran over a person of another community by a truck, whole mob got provoked and thereafter serious incidents had happened”. This did not seem convincing to Rahul Sharma. The charge sheet filed in the Gulberg Society case claimed that the gruesome massacre was precipitated by Ahsan Jaffri’s firing on the mob that had collected outside the building. 

Police Commissioner Kaushik, who was not satisfied with the charge sheet that had been filed, called Sharma about 10 to15 days later. He told Sharma to scrutinise the case papers of both cases thoroughly and point out the discrepancies to him. Kaushik instructed Pandey to send the case papers of these two cases to his office. After Pandey had brought the case papers and produced them before Kaushik, photocopies were prepared and they were handed over to Sharma.

Sharma then makes some startling assessments about the case papers:

  • He says he noticed that the FIR and the charge sheet were mutually inconsistent. This was true of both the Gulberg massacre case as well as the Naroda Patiya and Gaon carnage cases.
  • Sharma states on oath that in his assessment the firing by (Ahsan) Jaffri was not the cause for the subsequent attack on residents of Gulberg Society.
  • In his assessment of the Naroda Patiya case, the incident with the truck was not the reason for the violence that followed. Sharma says that his assessment was based on a close reading of the FIRs and the case papers that were supplied to him.

 On July 5, 2002, Sharma was once again transferred. He could not therefore communicate this assessment to the then CP, KR Kaushik.

Since 2003, with the Best Bakery case, CJP has highlighted the subversion and dubious functioning of the public prosecutor in Gujarat. In detailed affidavits submitted to the Supreme Court between October 2003 and May 2007, CJP has constantly exposed the attempts by the Gujarat government to subvert the position of public prosecutor by appointing advocates who had overt sympathies with the ideology of the RSS and the BJP. Therefore, instead of protecting the rights of the citizens helping them gain access to justice, these advocates served the vested interests of the ruling part and protected the interests of the accused. The mainstream media ignored this attempt by the Gujarat government to once again stifle the investigations into the cases.

The subversion of the judiciary by the government is visible from the low conviction rate of the perpetrators of the communal carnage which is tark contrast to 86 persons accused in the Godhra train fire case, all Muslims, who are still in jail, having been denied bail for more than seven years. (Five of them died in custody.)

The pursuit of justice for the victims in the post-Godhra massacre cases through a sustained intervention by the apex court has been an arduous process. In 2004, a year after the former chief justice, VN Khare, appointed Harish Salve as amicus curiae, the Gujarat government made shameful efforts to mislead the court on the issue of granting of bail to the accused. When CJP, acting as a constant watchdog, called attention to this shamefaced lying by the Gujarat government, the amicus curiae commissioned it in July 2004 to translate hundreds of pages of bail orders to prove that the Gujarat government was wrong and had been lying to the court. This task was completed within a month. The result revealed to both the amicus curiae and the Supreme Court the lengths to which the state of Gujarat would go in order to conceal the facts from the apex court.

This was seen in cases relating to the Gulberg Society massacre, the Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gaon massacres as well as the killings at Sardarpura and Odh. In fact, in Odh in Anand district, a judge even granted anticipatory bail to the accused, some of whom then ran off abroad! This subversion of justice was systematically executed between March 2002 and 2003 when acquittals in many of the cases relating to the major massacres also took place. Apart from the Best Bakery case, there were acquittals in the Pandharwada case (Panchmahal district, where 42 persons were killed) and Kidiad cases (Sabarkantha district, where 62 persons were burnt alive at Limbadiya Chowky as they attempted to flee in tempos). If the apex court had not intervened and stayed the trials (now being reinvestigated by the SIT) on November 23, 2003, there was every likelihood that mass acquittals would have taken place. The media through its piecemeal and sensationalised coverage has refused to grasp, or portray, the systematic subversion of the justice process within Gujarat.

Babu Bajrangi (Patel), principal accused in the Naroda Patiya case, was granted bail within months of the carnage. Since then he has blatantly committed more crimes. He told Tehelka during its sting operation that Modi had changed three high court judges to ensure that Bajrangi was granted bail! Akshay Mehta, a high court judge who granted bail to a large number of those accused in the post-Godhra killings in various cases was, after retirement, appointed colleague to Justice Nanavati of the Nanavati-Shah Commission when Justice KG Shah passed away.

Surely such deep levels of subversion require systematic investigation?


The Gujarat Government’s latest attempt to subvert the Judicial Process

A significant number of defence counsels in eight post-Godhra riots cases have been appointed as Special Public Prosecutors by the Gujarat State in other unrelated cases.

In these other cases they have been given “special rates” of Rs 12,000-15,000 per day as per a Specially Amended Rule of the Gujarat Government’s Legal Department saying that even on days of adjournment fees will be paid.

The advocates who have benefitted from the Gujarat government’s largesse are:

  • Defence Advocates in the Naroda Gaam Case: Rohit H. Verma, Rajesh N. Modi (Ex.PP), M.R. Khandar, Nilesh Lodha, H.C. Patel, P.O. Sharma

  • Defence counsel Mitesh Amin in the Gulberg case
     

  • Defence advocates in Sardarura: H.M. Dhruv, B.C. Barot, J.G. Rajput (Retired) 

 (Source: NDTV India; 29.3.2010)