The court order also noted that the victims’ relatives had in no way stated as to how Modi “is personally liable for the alleged acts or omissions of officials” of the then state government
Mahesh Trivedi | Clarion India
AHMEDABAD – The name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as one of the defendants has been struck off from three civil suits in which petitioners are seeking a Rs 230-million compensation for the murder of their three relatives—all British nationals—during the bloody communal riots in 2002.
Following an application moved by Modi’s lawyer, a court in Gujarat, which on Saturday ordered the removal of the then Gujarat Chief Minister’s name, observed that the allegations against ‘Defendant No 1’ were bald and vague, and the plaintiffs were attempting to drag on the case, and ruled that there was no evidence to establish that Modi was present at the site of the offence.
The court order also noted that the victims’ relatives had in no way stated as to how Modi “is personally liable for the alleged acts or omissions of officials” of the then state government.
However, the principal judge of the Prantij civil court, S K Gadhvi, assured the plaintiffs that the deletion of Modi’s name would not affect their claim to damages. The civil suits for compensation were filed in 2004 by the relatives of the victims, Shirin Dawood, Shamima Dawood (both British nationals) and Imran Salim Dawood.
On February 28, 2002, a day after Hindu-Muslim clashes broke out in Gujarat, Imran, then a boy of 18 living in London, was travelling with his uncles—Saeed Dawood, Shakeel Dawood and Mohammed Aswat. A mob stopped their vehicle at Prantij, 60 km from here, while they were returning to their native village of Lajpur near Navsari in south Gujarat after visiting Agra and Jaipur.
Saeed and Aswat, along with their Gujarat-based driver Yusuf Piraghar, were allegedly hacked to death by Hindu rioters, while Shakeel went missing and is believed to have been killed in the incident. Imran was also seriously injured but was rescued by the Prantij police. The boy was later made a complainant in an FIR lodged in connection with the case.
The relatives of the three victims had filed civil suits demanding compensation for the deaths and had sought the liability of the incident to be fixed on Modi, along with other top officials and politicians holding public offices then.
In 2015, however, a special court, citing lack of evidence, had acquitted all the six men accused of killing the travelling British nationals. The ‘Prantij British nationals killings case’ was one of the nine riot cases probed by the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team. During the proceedings, witnesses turned hostile. The prosecution had failed to prove the charges levelled against the accused men and even the witnesses were unable to identify the alleged killers.
The British nationals killing case was distinct because it was probably the rare case where foreign diplomats had deposed as witnesses through video-conference. On March 9, 2002, the then British High Commissioner, Ian Reakes, had visited the factories near the place of offence, along with the relatives of the victims, in the presence of police.
They found bones and a tooth from a factory which were handed over to police as evidence. With reference to the same episode, in 2012, Reakes and one more British diplomat had deposed as witnesses before the trial court via Skype.
Earlier, before the court ordered removal of Modi’s name from the compensation cases, the petitioners had pleaded that he was chief minister of Gujarat at the time and he was “constitutionally, statutorily and personally liable for being in complete command of the state machinery”.
They also alleged that the intelligence bureau had alerted about the movement of karsevaks coming from Ayodhya but there was complete failure of the state administration, adding that the acts and omissions of ‘defendant No.1’ had resulted into genocidal killings of Muslims, and that, that the ‘defendant No.1’ deliberately did not take any action against the newspapers fanning communal passions.
Other defendants as part of the compensation suit include the six accused who were eventually acquitted by the special court as well as former home minister in Gujarat Gordhan Zadaphia, the late state police chief DGP K Chakravarthi, former additional chief secretary at home department Ashok Narayan, the late IPS officer Amitabh Pathak, the then inspector D K Vanikar and the state government.
About 1,500 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in communal clashes in Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled Gujarat in 2002. The riots erupted following the death of 59 Hindu devotees in a train fire near Godhra station in central Gujarat.