vii. Subversion of the Criminal Justice System:

Subverting the Prosecuting Agency

Systematically, the government of Gujarat subverted the prosecutions launche din the Gujarat Carnage 2002 cases by appointing Law Officers who were active cardholding members of the Organisations Implicated in the Crimes (the RSS, VHP, BD and BJP) in stead of Lawyers with unimpeachable independence and integrity

   The Supreme Court severely indicted the Gujarat government and the High Court for the injustices done to the minority community and riot victims in the investigation of riot cases.

   The apex court transferred two cases, the Bilkees Bano case and the Best Bakery case, out of Gujarat, to Maharashtra.

    Amit Shah, the then minister of State for Home, along with Madhu Srivastava, a sitting MLA (formerly BJP) from Vadodara, influenced the key witness, Zahira Shaikh, and her immediate family while the Best Bakery trial was underway in Gujarat.

   After she fled to Gujarat in October-November 2004 (while the retrial was on in Mumbai) Shaikh was given commando protection and secretly housed at the Silver Oak club in Gandhinagar, which was closed to all other guests. A number of allegations were hurled at Teesta Setalvad, Secretary, CJP. On August 25, 2005 a report by the registrar general exonerated Teesta Setalvad completely and instead accused Zahira Shaikh of being bribed by Madhu Srivastava. However, the Gujarat government under Narendra Modi initiated no action against Srivastava who was found guilty by the Supreme Court’s registrar general of intimidating and bribing witnesses.

(Registrar General Supreme Court of India Report BM Gupta)

Systematically, the government of Gujarat subverted the prosecutions launche din the Gujarat Carnage 2002 cases by appointing Law Officers who were active cardholding members of the Organisations Implicated in the Crimes (the RSS, VHP, BD and BJP) in stead of Lawyers with unimpeachable independence and integrity

Provided below is a list of Public Prosecutors who have been appointed by the Gujarat Government in a  number of massacre cases in order to further the interests of the government and shield the accused.

Chetan Shah: He was appointed as the public prosecutor in the Gulberg Society massacre case in 2003; he had previously appeared for the accused in this and the Naroda massacre cases. Witnesses made an application to the then state law minister, Ashok Bhatt, in September 2003, which was also produced before the apex court. He was replaced by his junior, V.P. Atre.

V. P. Atre: A junior to Chetan Shah, whose conduct has also been suspect.

Vinod Gajjar: He was appointed to appear on behalf of the Gujarat government in 2006 behalf before Judge M.L. Mehta, Additional Sessions Judge, Delhi, who was appointed by the Supreme Court to scrutinise the voluminous case records in the NHRC case. Gajjar had previously appeared for some of those accused in the Gulberg Society massacre case.

Dilip Trivedi: He was and is the general secretary of the state VHP and heads the organisation’s 12-member lawyers’ panel. He appeared for the state in matters relating to the Sardarpura carnage, in which 33 persons were burnt alive on March 1, 2002, where all 46 accused were released on bail. (A day after they were released some of them allegedly attacked a mosque).

When the witness complainants filed an application in the Gujarat high court objecting to Trivedi’s role, additional public prosecutor, SJ Dave said the government would consider the appointment of a special public prosecutor but it would not make a firm commitment. Trivedi was removed from the Deepda Darwaja case (one of the two major incidents in Mehsana district) and replaced with Rajendra Darji. There is no order on record removing him from the other trial.

Bharat Bhatt: He was the public prosecutor in 2002 and VHP’s district president. He is on record as saying that he has been doing his best to help the accused in 2002 riot-related cases (in the Tehelka exposé following its sting ‘Operation Kalank’).

Avadhoot Sumant, Vadodara: In early August 2003 he had demanded that the Gujarat high court initiate contempt proceedings against the NHRC for calling the Best Bakery case verdict of July 2003 a miscarriage of justice. Three days after his public declaration to this effect, Sumant was appointed Assistant Public Prosecutor in the case.

Sanjay Bhatt Vyas:  He is Vadodara’s Assistant public Prosecutor and the nephew of Ajay Joshi, VHP’s city unit president in 2003. Ajay Joshi was a defence counsel in the Best Bakery case.

PS Dhora, Anand: He is allegedly an RSS sympathiser.

Piyush Gandhi, Panchmahal: The President of Panchmahal’s district VHP unit in 2002-03 and a member of the VHP’s lawyers’ panel appeared as public prosecutor in the district’s carnage cases and obtained acquittals in three trials between July and November 2002.

Raghuvir Pandya:  As prosecutor for the Vadodara city police in 1996, he contested elections to the Manjalpur Corporation from Ward 20, Kesariya (south), Vadodara, on a BJP ticket. During the Best Bakery trial in April-May 2003, before the fast track court of Judge HU Mahida, all matters were handled by the then public prosecutor, Mr Gupta. But at the time of interrogation of witnesses (who had turned hostile) Raghuvir Pandya was suddenly appointed public prosecutor.

H. M. Dhruva: A sudden and recent appointment to the SIT panel of prosecutors in April 2009, as reported in The Indian Express, Ahmedabad. Dhruva previously appeared as public prosecutor when the Godhra train fire case was being tried under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and where, during proceedings, he demonstrated a clear bias against the accused. According to information received through a Right to Information (RTI) application filed in 2006-07, Dhruva, as special public prosecutor in one of the Godhra cases, officially received fees amounting to more than Rs 92 lakh, eight or nine times what was earned by prosecutors in other 2002 trials.

Arvind Pandya: Ahmedabad The state government’s counsel before the Nanavati-Shah Commission, who cast aspersions on the judges. According to him, Nanavati is after money and Shah is sympathetic to "them" (Tehelka, ‘Operation Kalank’). Suprisingly, no contempt of court proceedings have been initiated against Pandya for this insult to the Gujarat judiciary.

M.S. Pathak, Anand: In 2002 he was public prosecutor in the Odh massacre case where hasty anticipatory bail was granted to the accused.

J. M. Panchal, Ahmedabad: He has been appointed public prosecutor in the past when major lapses were found in investigation.

Sudhir Brahmbhatt, Ahmedabad: He has been appointed public prosecutor in the past when major lapses were found in investigation.

S.C. Shah, Anand: He has been appointed public prosecutor in the past when major lapses were found in investigation.

During the Supreme Court proceedings, Harish Salve, amicus curiae, had, in his written submissions dated March 22, 2007 filed in the Supreme Court, stated that "the state of Gujarat does not have a significant reply to the allegations (made by victim survivors and CJP) that the appointment of public prosecutors was done in a manner inconsistent with the rights of the victims under Article 21 (right to life) and in breach of the duty cast upon the state under the Code of Criminal Procedure."

For more information see: “Wheels of Injustice” by Teesta Setalvad, Communalism Combat; June, 2009 http://www.sabrang.com/cc/archive/2009/may09/cover6.html