19, Jun 2016
On June 2, 2016 declaring that he has not accepted the charge of criminal conspiracy, Special Judge PB Desai announced that he was convicting 11 accused for serious offenses and 13 others for lesser crimes. What followed was a courtroom drama that lasted four days with aggressive arguments being made by lawyers for the accused against imposition of even life imprisonment. One of the sensational arguments, bordering on the scandalous, proferred by the defence – while referring to the firing by former parliamentarian Ahsan Jafri – was that this is the first incident of communal crimes in post-Independent India when the minority had attacked the minority!
On June 17, 2016 when the final verdict became public, the acquitted accused could rightly claim to have emerged victorious. The sound oral witness testimonies and documentary evidence showing the armed mob build up outside the society between 9.00 am and 1.30 pm was more or less completely ignored by the judge. The testimony of police witnesses that joint commissioner of police, Ahmedabad, MK Tandon had visited the society around 10.30 a.m. and left the place without ensuring adequate police reinforcement was not taken seriously by Judge Desai. Worse still, the survivors’ testimonies against many of the accused have been completely dismissed by the Special Judge.
Advocates for the survivors-witnesses, SM Vohra and Salim Shaikh had stoutly assisted the prosecution even as a visibly hostile Special Investigation Team(SIT), led by RK Raghavan former CBI director, steadily diluted the evidence. In fact, it was after the charge sheet fled by the SIT in the Gulberg case that survivors had through their advocates first filed an application for documentary evidence which included police control room records, phone call records and fire brigade call registers. It is at this stage that the Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) filed an application December 1, 2009 asking for a reconstitution of the SIT itself. In February 2010, the independent public prosecutor, RK Shah had resigned his post citing the unprofessional conduct of the SIT and the hostility of the then Special Judge BU Joshi. The SIT has played a sinister game in this case even delaying the trial when it was before Judge Dhanda for over one and a half years. Advocates for the survivors, supported by CJP have made cogent arguments at various stages of the trial to get senior police arraigned as accused.
Finally they had submitted written arguments in support of their case of criminal conspiracy and mass murder. Even after the first pronouncement on June 2, detailed written submissions on exemplary punishment were made by advocates for the survivors which included detailed evidence that showed the armed mob build up from 9 a.m. onwards on February 28, 2002. All this has been completely discarded by the judge.
All in all, the final judgement in the Gulberg case is a sore disappointment in that it does not even uphold or respect the testimony of eye-witness survivors, unlike the judgements in the Best Bakery Re-Trial, Sardarpura Case and the Naroda Patiya Case.
SabrangIndia will publish a more detailed examination and analysis of the over 1,300 pages long judgment. Meanwhile, the full text of the judgement can be read here.
Credit: Sabrangindia https://sabrangindia.in/article/travesty-justice-gulberg-society-verdict