IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. ………./2022
(arising out of SLP(Crl.) No. ………./2022 @ Diary No. 34207/2018)
Crl.A. No. 912/2022 – D.No. 34207 / 2018 24-Jun-2022
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
ZAKIA AHSAN JAFRI VS STATE OF GUJARAT & ANR
DATE: June 24, 2022
BENCH J (A.M. Khanwilkar) j. (Dinesh Maheshwari) J. (C.T. Ravikumar)
- JUDGMENT (PAGE 1-307)
DOWN LOAD ORIGINAL JUDGMENT :
1. There is a delay of 216 days in filing of this special leave petition against the judgment and order dated 5.10.2017 passed by the High Court of Gujarat at Ahmedabad(for short, “the High Court”) in Criminal Revision Application No. 205/2014. Even though the explanation offered in the application for condonation of delay is blissfully vague and bereft of any material facts and particulars, keeping in mind the subject matter involved, we deemed it appropriate to ignore/condone the delay and proceeded to hear the matter on merits.
2- We must note that the respondents had faintly objected to the hearing of this matter on merits owing to unexplained delay in filing of the petition. However, they have a serious objection to the joining of Ms. Teesta Setalvad (as petitioner No. 2). Firstly, because, the protest petition on which impugned order had been passed and assailed in this appeal, was filed only by the appellant( hereinafter, “appellant” means Zakia Ahsan Jafri only) – Zakia Ahsan Jafri, wife of deceased – Mr. Ehsan Jafri and on the earlier occasion (proceedings before the High Court), it has been ruled that she had no locus standi to join the cause of appellant, which opinion has become final as it has not been reversed by this Court in SLP(Crl.) No. 1088/2008. Secondly, the antecedents of Ms. Teesta Setalvad need to be reckoned and also because she has been vindictively persecuting this lis for her ulterior design by exploiting the emotions and sentiments of appellant – Zakia Ahsan Jafri, the real victim of the circumstances. On the other hand, according to Ms. Teesta Setalvad, she is a bonafide crusader of human rights issues and has been following this case closely being fully convinced about the cause in quest of justice. However, as aforementioned, we have leaned in favour of examining the merits of the challenge to the impugned order(s) at the instance of appellant – Zakia Ahsan Jafri. For, because of the subject matter, this Court in the past had to invoke its role of parens patriae in issuing sui generis directions including in constituting a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate into the matter and to present appropriate report before the Metropolitan Magistrate taking cognizance of Crime Report (CR) No. 67/2002 dealing with the Gulberg Society, Meghaninagar case. Thus, we do not wish to dilate on the issue of locus of Ms. Teesta Setalvad and keep that preliminary objection open to be decided in an appropriate case.
3. In that light, we have granted leave to appeal and decided to examine the matter on merits at the instance of the appellant – Zakia Ahsan Jafri.
4. Shorn of unnecessary factual matrix, this matter essentially emanates from the sui generis directions given by this Court on 27.4.2009 (2009 SCC Online SC 6 – Jakia Naseem Ahesan & Anr. vs. State of Gujarat & Ors). in SLP(Crl.) No. 1088/2008, whilst considering challenge to the decision of the High Court dated 2.11.2007, rejecting the prayer of the appellant – Zakia Ahsan Jafri for issuing direction to the concerned authority to register an FIR on the basis of complaint presented by her on 8.6.2006 to the Director General of Police, Gujarat. However, this Court vide stated order (dated 27.4.2009( SUPRA), directed the SIT appointed by it in terms of the order dated 26.3.2008 (2009) 6 SCC 342 – National Human Rights Commission vs. State of Gujarat & Ors., to “look into” the complaint dated 8.6.2006 and take steps as required by law and to give its report to this Court within three months. Consequent to such direction, the SIT submitted its successive reports on the basis of investigation done by it including by taking into account the observations of the Amicus Curiae appointed by this Court. Treating the further report submitted by the SIT as analogous to report under Section 173(8) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (for short, “the Code”), this Court permitted the SIT to place it before the Magistrate taking cognizance of CR No. 67/2002 concerning trial in Gulberg Society case with further direction to the Magistrate to then proceed in accordance with law, including to give opportunity to the appellant in the event of final report submitted by the SIT was to recommend closure of her complaint. Appellant – Zakia Ahsan Jafri, after being served with the final report dated 8.2.2012 alongwith relevant materials adverted to therein, then filed protest petition on 15.4.2013. This protest petition came to be rejected by the Metropolitan Magistrate vide order dated 26.12.2013 and instead, the final report of the SIT came to be accepted. This decision was carried before the High Court by way of Criminal Revision Application No. 205/2014. The revision application came to be disposed of on 5.10.2017, against which the present appeal arises for our consideration.
5. (a) Briefly stated, the abhorrent Godhra incident occurred in the morning of 27.2.2002, wherein Kar-sevaks travelling in Sabarmati Express train, returning from Ayodhya, were allegedly attacked and coaches of the train were set on fire at Godhra Railway Station at around 7.45 a.m., as a result of which, 58 persons were charred to death and 59th victim succumbed to the burn injuries on 3.4.2002. As aftermath of that incident, there was unrest and violence all across the State of Gujarat. In that process – a violent mob attacked the inhabitants of Gulberg Society, Meghaninagar, killing 69 persons at the stated location including the husband of appellant – Zakia Ahsan Jafri, who had unsuccessfully attempted to dissuade the mob. In connection with this incident, a crime was registered at “Meghaninagar Police Station” being CR No. 67/2002. Multiple chargesheets were filed against the concerned accused and the case was committed to Sessions.
89. To sum up, we are of the considered opinion that no fault can be found with the approach of the SIT in submitting final report dated 8.2.2012, which is backed by firm logic, expositing analytical mind and dealing with all aspects objectively for discarding the allegations regarding larger criminal conspiracy (at the highest level) for causing and precipitating mass violence across the State against the minority community during the relevant period. As aforementioned, the SIT has gone by the logic of falsity of the information or material and including the same remaining uncorroborated. In that, the materials collected during the investigation do not give rise to strong or grave suspicion regarding hatching of larger criminal conspiracy at the highest level for causing mass violence across the State against the minority community and more so, indicating involvement of the named offenders and their meeting of minds at some level in that regard. The SIT had formed its opinion after considering all the materials collated during the investigation. The question of further investigation would have arisen only on the availability of new material/information in connection with the allegation of larger conspiracy at the highest level, which is not forthcoming in this case. Hence, the final report, as submitted by the SIT, ought to be accepted as it is, without doing anything more.
91. After cogitating over the matter, we uphold the decision of the Magistrate in accepting the stated final report dated 8.2.2012 submitted by the SIT, as it is and rejecting the protest petition filed by the appellant. We do not countenance the submission of the appellant regarding infraction of rule of law in the matter of investigation and the approach of the Magistrate and the High Court in dealing with the final report.
92. Accordingly, we hold that this appeal is devoid of merits and resultantly, deserves to be dismissed in the aforementioned terms. We order accordingly.
Pending applications, if any, shall stand disposed of accordingly.
J. (A.M. Khanwilkar)
J. (Dinesh Maheshwari)
J. (C.T. Ravikumar)
June 24, 2022.
Opinion of Shri Raju Ramchandran, Amicus Curiae:-
Shri Raju Ramchandran, Sr. Advocate assisted by Shri Gaurav Aggarwal, Advocate had been appointed as Amicus Curiae by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India to assist the Court in this matter. Shri Raju Ramchandran, AC initially examined the Inquiry Report submitted by the SIT to the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India and submitted his observations on the findings of the SIT on 20.0l.2011, to the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, in three parts i.e. Chart ‘A’, Chart ‘B’ & Chart ‘C’.
The aforesaid observations made by the Ld. Amicus Curiae were considered by the Hon’ble Spl. Bench of Supreme Court of India on 15.03.2011, when the following observations were made:-
“A copy of the note submitted by the learned amicus Curiae has already been supplied to the Chairman, Special Investigation Team (SIT). Let the Chairman, SIT, look into the observations made by the learned amicus curiae against each of the findings given by the SIT on the allegations made in the complaint and submit this report thereon. If considered necessary, it will be open to the SIT to carry out further investigation in light of the observations made in the said note. The report shall be submitted by 25th April, 2011. List the case on 27th April, 2011 at 3:00 p.m.”
Pursuant to the aforesaid order, SIT conducted further investigation u/s 173(8) Cr.P.C. in Gulberg Society Case (Meghaninagar P.S. 1 CR No.67/02) as suggested by Ld. Amicus Curiae in his observations submitted in the note dated 20.01.2011 to the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.