“History Has Its Own Eccentricities”

The Night

An excerpt from Manoj Mitta, The Fiction of Fact Finding, (2014), pgs. 112 to 121:

A key element of the monitoring was the mechanism of the Amicus Curiae, a Senior Lawyer appointed by the Supreme Court to provide independent advise to it. The one for Jafri’s complaint was Senior Advocate, Raju RamachandranMuch as he played this critical role with due independence, Ramachandran, it would appear, could have done with greater thoroughness. His scrutiny seemed to have been hampered by the fact that he never really stepped out of the frame set by the SIT. Ramachandran’s literal interpretation of his brief might have enhanced the credibility of his Reports but, in the process, he seemed to have overlooked some material evidence. Take his failure to notice the farcical nature of the SIT’s questions to Modi. Neither of his Reports, which were the bedrock of the Supreme Court monitoring, made any comment on those questions. Whatever had been held back or played down by the SIT, in effect, escaped the Supreme Court monitoring, irrespective of its relevance to the subject of the probe.

Had Ramachandran not overlooked the oddities in Modi’s testimony, he could have built the case on grounds that were most substantial and irrefutable. Had he made an issue of the inflammatory terror allegation aired by Modi within hours of the incident, the SIT would have found itself on the defensive, having toed the Gujarat Police line in the Godhra case… he missed the point was clearly an opportunity loss for fact finding.

Making matters worse was Ramachandran’s silence in his Final Report on the critical issue he had himself raised in his Interim Report: the absence of ‘any decisive actionby Modi on February 28, 2002 when Ahmedabad had been ravaged by violence against Muslims. This was the closest Ramachandran had come to questioning Modi’s controversial suggestion that even as he was engaged in saving Muslims he was oblivious the whole day to the two big massacres of Ahmedabad.

Ramachandran gave in to the SIT’s explanation. He said, “As far as the SIT’s conclusion with regard to the steps taken by Shri Modi to control the riots in Ahmedabad is concerned, the same may be accepted, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary.” Ramachandran’s failure to notice the ‘evidence to the contrary’ in Modi’s interrogation was a major reason why the Supreme Court’s monitoring of the investigation proved to be illusory. This was despite the fact that unlike its choice of SIT Members, the Supreme Court’s selection of Ramachandran as Amicus Curiae was beyond reproach.

In an unintended consequence, his proposal of being Modi being tried purely on Bhatt’s testimony seemed to have prompted the Supreme Court to end the monitoring rather abruptly, on September 12, 2011. The end was so abrupt that the Supreme Court, despite authorizing him earlier to mention ‘if an offence is made out against any person’, gave no indication in Order that Ramachandran had actually named Modi. Without any explanation, it also departed from the precedent set in the same case of directly handing over the Amicus Curiae’s Report to the SIT. The Bench, headed by Justice Jain, instead said that as far as his Second and Final Report was concerned, “it will open to the SIT to obtain a copy from the Amicus Curiae.” This meant that the SIT had the option of not seeing Ramachandran’s Final Report at all. As a corollary, there was no question of the Bench telling the SIT to take his Final Report into account. This was a far cry from its reaction to the Interim Report when it had told the SIT to make a reappraisal ‘in light of the observations’ made by Ramachandran. In effect, his Interim Report, which proposed a further inquiry against Modi, had been accorded a higher status than his Final Report, which said Modi be tried for hate speech.

The moral of the story is clear. When the right questions are not put, there will be neither the right evidence nor the right conclusions.”

History has its own eccentricities. Shri Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India wishes to thank one and all for faith.