Thursday, February 16, 2012

Exercise Restraint, Mr Jaitley !

February 14, 2012
Shri Arun Jaitley
Hon’ble Leader of the Opposition
Rajya Sabha
Dear Sir,
We write this open letter to you in response to electronic and print media reports. These
reports were quoting you last week on recent developments in the case where we are joint
petitioners. We were surprised to both hear and read what you said during electioneering in
Varanasi on February 9, 2012. While your party colleagues have repeatedly indulged in similar
bouts of misinformation in the past, it was still a shock to hear them a fresh from a senior
lawyer of the Supreme Court who is also Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. We write
this to you in the hope that given both these responsible positions, you will realise the
magnitude of the impropriety of your conduct, contained in your utterances.
You said on television that since the allegations against Shri Modi have thrice been investigated
and found to be untrue, the case should be closed once and for all. This is a misrepresentation
of facts. It is not merely an utter falsehood but a deliberate mis-reading of the due process of
law. To observe the sanctity of the public record we urge that you refrain from making these
statements that could be seen as a crude attempt to manipulate public discourse and even
influence the course of justice.
To put the record straight, the Smt Zakia Ahsan Jafri and Citizens for Justice and Peace’s Special
Leave Petition (SLP) 1088/2008 resulted in the Supreme Court (SC) monitored investigations
into allegations of criminal misconduct and breach of the law by chief functionary of
Gujarat, Shri Narendra Modi your fellow party man. Others accused in the complaint are senior
cabinet colleagues, administrators and policemen. The SC appointed Special Investigation Team
(SIT) submitted its report on May 12, 2010. The Amicus Curiae in the case, Shri Raju
Ramachandran submitted a preliminary ten-page note to the Court that resulted in the SC
ordering the SIT to further investigate. (Please refer to the Court orders, attached). On March
15, 2011, after oral observations that the SIT’s “evidences do not match its inferences”, the SC
passed further orders to the SIT to further investigate (Orders attached) following which
statements of several witnesses including ourselves under section 161 were recorded.
Thereafter, on May 5, 2011 the Court actually directed the Amicus Curiae to record evidence,
including that of police officers, bypassing SIT. (Orders attached). The developments in our case
between January and April 2011, to an unjaundiced eye, surely suggest that the SC was giving
an opportunity to the SIT to review or correct a faltering investigation.
Thereafter after the submission of the Report of the Amicus in July 2011, the Court by its order
dated September 12, 2011, directed a Charge Sheet/Final Report to be submitted before a
Magistrate along with a report of the Amicus Curiae. Quite apart from the fact that it has taken
close to five months for the SIT to partially submit its report, the contents are a matter of media
leaks or speculation. Even if, as you believe or know, SIT has given a clean chit to Shri Modi the
process under criminal law requires the Judiciary to finally take a call and decide on whether
the conclusions reached by the SIT are valid or otherwise; both the SC Order and Indian criminal
law give us -- the complainants -- a chance to file protest petitions, appeals etc. As significantly,
just as recent media leaks have suggested that SIT has exonerated your fellow party man, other
media leaks have suggested that the Amicus has recommended Shri Modi’s charge sheeting
and prosecution.
Given these facts, the matter is still very much open, is still before the Courts, and not closed as
you so hastily conveyed during electioneering in Varanasi. We have individually and collectively
been the butt of contempt, ridicule and malicious slander from senior party functionaries
through this struggle for justice, but write this in the slender hope that your position as Leader
of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha will compel you to exercise lawful restraint while making
comments in this sensitive case in public. Both as a senior lawyer and political functionary, your
utterances have the power to vitiate the atmosphere and mislead the public. Our struggle for
justice has been rigorous, restricted to Constitutional and legal means and we shall continue
our struggle for reparation and acknowledgement. Let the responses to this struggle also be
within the precincts of the law.
What happened in Godhra was condemnable, a tragedy, shunned by all communities; the post
Godhra reprisal killings are a testimony to brute hate-driven violence, mute connivance and a
breakdown of Constitutional governance. Any correctives, including punishment of the
perpetrators need to be welcomed. The remedies we seek are within the bounds of legal
propriety, not in the hysteria induced speeches of electioneering and television debates. Only
the day before your shocking statement in Varanasi, the Gujarat high court had severely pulled
up the chief minister for not only failing to anticipate the post-Godhra communal violence in
2002 – but also allowing “anarchy” to rule “unabated” for days in the state. This is apart from
the strong findings of the reports of the National Human Rights Commission in 2002 itself and
the Supreme Court remarks in the Best Bakery Case (2004).
As one committed to the rule of law as a senior lawyer surely must be, we earnestly urge that
you exercise restraint. The pre-requisite for justice delivery is a level playing field that requires a
strict adherence to the truth.
Yours Sincerely,
Zakia Ahsan Jafri Teesta Setalvad, Citizens for Justice and Peace
Co-Petitioners SLP 1088/2008