Free counters!
FollowLike Share It

Friday 11 November 2011

CJP Assesses the Sardarpura Judgement


November 10, 2011

The Citizens for Justice and Peace welcomes the decision of the trail court (November 9, 2011) in the Sardarpura massacre case to convict 31 persons to life imprisonment for murder and unlawful assembly. (Sections 302 and 120 B of the Indian Penal Code.) The verdict was delivered by Judge Srivastava at the Mehsana district court yesterday. This is the first time ever in the history of communal violence in the country that such a high number of accused in mob violence have been convicted. Our advocates invoking Section 357 of the CRPC also argued for compensation and Judge Srivastava has ordered Rs 50,000 each to be paid as compensation from each of the convicted accused. We had also asked for orders from the Court that could act as a deterrent for outbreaks of violence in the future.

There are some critical issues following the outcome of the 1,024 page judgement that CJP would like to focus on:

Firstly, Witnesses and survivors are still terrified of returning to their village of Sardarpura where the mass crime had taken place on the night of March 1, 2002. (TV Coverage and the IE and Hindu Stories reflect this). Hence it is safe and reasonable to conclude that it is only with the monitoring of the cases by the Supreme Court, which monitoring has ensured that CISF protection is given to every eye witness not to mention the legal aid provided by Citizens for Justice and Peace could this result --31 convictions - have been achieved.
Behind each of these 31 persons being convicted for life are the testimonies of four - six eye witnesses and victim survivors who have a) named them in statements before investigating agencies; b) named them in their testimonies in Court and c) identified them in a dock eyed investigation in the Court premises at Mehsana. This seemingly glib and easy exercise of witness testimony that started over two years ago in July 2009 has meant victim survivors living through pain and trauma, fear from the powerful perpetrators. The victim and eye witness community are farm labourers forced to re locate at Satnagar an hour's drive from Sardarpura. At every step they have been warned to stay away etc but the fact that the SC was watching, the central paramilitary was protecting them and there was a group of citizens committed to the rule of law, willing to risk things and apply to the SC if and whenever things went wrong gave the confidence to the witnesses to depose. This must not be lost sight of.
Eye witness testimonies are the only factor for convictions during mob violence. Eye witness testimonies are the only guarantor of convictions --there are over four dozen judgements on this and without these testimonies there would have been no convictions.
The CJP would like to take this opportunity to express its appreciation and gratitude to its entire staff and team of lawyers who have worked tirelessly to make this happen. Specifically, Shri Yusuf Shaikh senior lawyer assisted by advocates Aslam Baig and Sameer Mansuri handled the entire and exhaustive legal interventions related to the Sardarpura trial (photographs attached). Shri Suhel Tirmizi in the Gujarat High Court. Shri Mihir Desai in Bombay and Ms Kamini Jaiswal, Ms Aparna Bhat and Shri Ramesh Pukhrambam in the Supreme Court of India helped us pursue this case tirelessly.

A real life issue for CJP and all of us working in the socio political arena is the paralysis within locations where mass crimes happen, here Sardarpura in Gujarat where Victim Survivors cannot relocate in Sardarpura. What do we conclude from this? It is the failure of the entire socio political class even the Opposition to ensure the climate of safety to ensure this happens. An intrepid legal fight has ensured legal victory, what about reparation and restitution?

The CJP expresses grave concern about the charge of section 120 B (Conspiracy under the IPC) being dropped and here the questionable role of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) is reflected. Even in the Sardarpura case evidence has been led on the planning behind singling out Shaikh mohalla, the communal mobilisation ten days before Godhra (Then Minister Naran Lalloo Patel and Haresh Bhatt of Bajrang Dal had visited the area and addressed meetings)--witnesses have testified ; Tehelka's Sting Operation (that SIT has been forced to bring into it's investigation and Charge sheet only after we Applied to the Court for it (now voice testing etc has happened though some accused like Babu Bajrangi have refused to allow their voices to be scientifically tested against those recorded in the Tehelka tapes). This issue including the complicity of local policemen who deliberately did not answer pleas for help until SP Mehsana Gahlot rescued the survivors around 3 a.m. of March 2, 2002 raises questions about the conduct of the police. These issues will be raised by us in appeal. (The detailed written arguments filed witness survivors has an entire chapter on “Conspiracy and Build UP”. This can be accessed from our website

Thirdly CJP would like to state unequivocally its stand on the sentence. We stressed that death penalty is not a form of punishment we subscribe to. CJP would like to place on record its distaste at the vindictive manner in which special public prosecutor in the Godhra case and pushed for death penalty for 11 persons. We believe that the issue of inter community peace and restitution of harmony has moral and ethical dimensions not only legal ones and hence we would like to express displeasure at the conduct of the prosecutor under the SIT.

Finally the Court in the Sardarpura massacre case, has spoken equivocally on the vile allegations made against CJP’s Secretary on the vile and malafide allegations of tutoring of witnesses. While we feel vindicated, the cost has been high. We urge that that this attempt, crass and brazen, by the state of Gujarat and the party it represents needs to be focused upon by the media not merely for our individual vindication but to emphasise a humbling reality. Without legal and moral support from legal groups to victims and witnesses, it is well nigh impossible in our system it –often poor, frightened and displaced by violent crimes --- to ever get justice done. This is a harsh but somber reality.

Teesta Setalvad
Secretary & Trustee
Citizens for Justice and Peace

1)      Photos of our team of three lawyers
2)      List of Accused Convicted
3)      List of Accused given the Benefit of Doubt
4)      List of Accused Acquitted

Other Trustees:I.M. Kadri                                            Arvind Krishnaswamy                                   Javed Akhtar
Cyrus Guzder                                     Alyque Padamsee                                           Anil Dharker
Nandan Maluste                              Javed Anand                                                     
Rahul Bose                         
Cedric Prakash                                  
Ghulam Pesh Imam

Nirant, Juhu Tara Road, Juhu, Mumbai – 400 049. Ph: 2660 2288,

No comments:

Post a Comment