India’s nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has welcomed a court decision to clear its Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi of any involvement in the 2002 communal riots in western Gujarat state.
A metropolitan court in Gujarat on Thursday upheld the clean chit given by a special investigation team (SIT) which said there was no evidence to prosecute Modi, the state’s three-time chief minister, for the riots involving Hindus and Muslims that left more than 1,000 people dead.
While Modi reacted by tweeting the Sanskrit language phrase “satyameva jayate” (truth always prevails), BJP leader Arun Jaitley was quoted as saying that the court ruling was a moral victory for the party and Modi.
The court rejected a petition challenging the SIT’s exoneration in February 2012 of Modi by Zakia Jafri, whose husband and Congress member of parliament Ehsan Jafri was burnt alive during the riots along with 68 others in the Gulbarg Society massacre.
Metropolitan magistrate BJ Ganatra ruled that evidence was insufficient to prosecute Modi along with 57 other politicians, police personnel and bureaucrats.
Not ethnic cleansing
In its 440 page order, the court also said that the events were not serious enough to be described as “ethnic cleansing and genocide”.
The court rejected the parallel conclusion of a Supreme Court appointed official Raju Ramachandran who, in his report, had stated that Modi could be prosecuted for inciting communal hatred, reports said.
The ruling is a shot in the arm for the BJP as one of the biggest criticisms against Modi was his alleged involvement in the riots.
With the ruling, the party leadership now expects to win more allies to its side ahead of the national elections to be held in April-May next year.
Petitioner Zakia Jafri’s lawyer Mihir Desai was quoted as saying they would appeal against the judgment in a higher court.