2002 Godhra riots: Key points of Justice Nanavati-Mehta Commission report that gave clean chit to Narendra Modi govt

  • The Gujarat government tabled the final part of the Justice Nanavati Mehta Commission report by of the Justices (retired) GT Nanavati and AH Mehta Commission that probed the 2002 Godhra riots in the state Assembly on Wednesday

  • The panel gave a clean chit to then chief minister and current Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Cabinet in the allegations of complicity in the 2002 Godhra Train Carnage case, and subsequent statewide riots

  • The Nanavati-Mehta Commission is the commission of inquiry appointed by the government of Gujarat to probe the Godhra train burning incident of 27 February 2002. It later went on to include the investigation of the 2002 Gujarat riots under its mandate

The Gujarat government tabled the final part of the Justice Nanavati Mehta Commission report by of the Justices (retired) GT Nanavati and AH Mehta Commission that probed the 2002 Godhra riots in the state Assembly on Wednesday. The report has given the then Narendra Modi-led state government and others a clean chit in connection to 2002 Godhra train carnage.

The commission’s report was tabled in the Gujarat Legislative Assembly by Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja, five years after it was submitted to the then state government.

The report which runs over 2,500 pages and is compiled in nine volumes, said that the police at some places were ineffective in controlling the mob because of their inadequate numbers or because they were not properly armed.

On some communal riot incidents in Ahmedabad city, the commission said, “The police had not shown their competence and eagerness which was necessary.” It has recommended inquiry or action against the erring police officers.

This report, that was submitted five years ago to then Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel back in 2014 was the basis of a public interest petition (PIL) filed by retired Gujarat Director-General of Police RB Sreekumar in the Gujarat High Court.

The report contains 44,445 affidavits, 488 of which were filed by various state government officials. The first report of the commission was submitted in 2008, which too had cleared Modi of all charges. That report was in a single volume and had focussed largely on the train carnage.

What is the Nanavati-Mehta Commission?

The Nanavati-Mehta Commission is the commission of inquiry appointed by the government of Gujarat to probe the Godhra train burning incident of 27 February 2002. It later went on to include the investigation of the 2002 Gujarat riots under its mandate. It was appointed on 6 March, 2002, with KG Shah, a retired Gujarat High Court judge, as its only member. It was later re-constituted to include GT Nanavati, a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India, after protests from human rights organisations over Shah's closeness to then-Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. Following Shah’s death in 2008, Justice Akshay Mehta was appointed in his place.

 2002 Godhra riots: Key points of Justice Nanavati-Mehta Commission report that gave clean chit to Narendra Modi govt

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Initially, the scope of the panel was to inquire into the facts, circumstances and events that led to the burning of the S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express. But soon after the UPA government came to power in the centre in 2004, the scope of the commission was widened to include within its scope of the inquiry, the role and conduct of the then chief minister Narendra Modi and other ministers in his council of ministers, police officers, other individuals and organisations.

Key points from the final part of the report:

The panel gave a clean chit to then chief minister and current prime minister Narendra Modi and his cabinet in connection with allegations of complicity in the 2002 Godhra train carnage case, and subsequent statewide riots. The commission held that the riots were not organised and the State administration had taken all necessary measures to control the situation, observing that it was the police that was ineffective and lacking competence and eagerness to control the mob violence.

“There is no evidence to show that these attacks were either inspired or instigated or abated by any minister of the state,” the commission said in its report.

While tabling the report on Wednesday, Jadeja specifically took the names of BJP leaders, the late Haren Pandya, Bharat Barot, and the late Ashok Bhatt. The Commission has found the allegations against them to be false, he said.

It also rejected statements by three former IPS officers — Sreekumar, Rahul Sharma, and Sanjiv Bhatt —and also made strong observations against them. The three senior ex-IPS officers had taken on the BJP government over the February-March 2002 riots, in which more than 1,000 people, most of them from a minority community, were killed.

Bhatt, the then deputy commissioner of State Intelligence Bureau, had personal grievances against the government and higher officers, said the two-member panel headed by retired Supreme Court judge GT Nanavati.

Sreekumar, the then additional DGP, made false allegations against the Gujarat government to malign it because he was a disgruntled officer, the commission said.

As for Sharma, the then deputy commissioner of police in control room of Ahmedabad, the panel observed he was not telling the truth, and his evidence in the form of CDs containing call details during the initial days of riots could not be accepted as reliable and correct.

The commission also said that the evidence provided against the then Minister of State for Home Gordhan Zadaphia was false. Following the findings,  Jadeja said the government would initiate departmental proceedings against the three former police officers, reports The Indian Express.

Apart from the three senior IPS officers, Jadeja said, the commission has also found the role of two NGOs: Jan Sangharsh Manch which was then led by the late Mukul Sinha, and Citizens for Justice and Peace, led by Teesta Setalvad as "negative". The panel held that these NGOs wanted to tarnish the image of Modi, Gujarat and Gujaratis globally.

Key recommendations of the report:

Ensuring an adequate number of well-equipped police personnel, educating the masses about true religion, highlighting harm caused by communal riots, and ensuring the media shows restraint while reporting such tragedies are among the recommendations made by the Nanavati Commission that probed Gujarat's post-Godhra 2002 riots.

The commission said it was deep-rooted hatred between some sections of Hindu and Muslim communities that caused such riots, and recommended educating the masses to remove feelings of ill will. In its recommendations, the panel said disciplined police force, provided an inadequate number and which is well-equipped, will help control communal riots.

While considering the evidence relating to the incidents which happened during the communal riots, we have noticed that the absence of police or their inadequate number emboldened the mobs to indulge in violence, it said.

The report said the state should ensure the police force has adequate strength and see that vacant posts are immediately filled up. What we find from the evidence placed before us is that the state has not been able to maintain adequate strength of the police force. "It is, therefore, recommended that the state should periodically examine the requirement of an adequate police force and see that vacant posts are immediately filled up," it said.

The commission suggested the adoption of modern technology to improve policing. The government should also ensure that every police station has an adequate number of officers and policemen and that they are properly equipped with means of communication, vehicles, arms and ammunition.

"Adoption of modern technology can certainly improve their efficiency and effectiveness, it said.

The root cause for the communal violence that followed the Godhra incident was the deep-rooted hatred between some sections of Hindu and Muslim communities, said the panel. It noted that certain religious leaders and organisations and other anti-social elements take advantage of this hatred.

Poor and illiterate people are easily led away by religious leaders or by such interested persons and they indulge in communal violence without properly appreciating the effect of what they are doing."This weakness of the society can be changed only by properly educating the masses about what true religion is and how harmful the communal violence is to the welfare of the society, the judicial panel observed.

The commission said the media should ensure it does not become instrumental in provoking more communal violence by publishing "exaggerated" reports about the incidents.

Based on submissions made by former IPS officers RB Sreekumar and Rahul Sharma highlighting the media's role in reporting communal incidents in a highly irresponsible manner, the panel suggested effective action against such violations.

The commission said that authority concerned should see that the media acts with restraint during such difficult times and immediate effective action should be taken against the media if it is found to be transgressing the limits." As the then Superintendent of Police in Bhavnagar, Sharma had stated before the commission that because of publication of a report in a local daily, violence broke out in that district", the panel noted.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Dec 12, 2019 11:56:07 IST