New Delhi: The Supreme Court ordered on Friday the setting up of six fast-track courts to speed up cases linked to 2002 riots in Gujarat that left at least 1,000 people dead.
Fast track: Narendra Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat when riots that broke out in Godhra left at least 1,000 people dead. Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint
The court said the cases, pending for seven years, could be heard in Gujarat, rejecting a petition from the National Human Rights Commission that they be transferred out of the state to ensure trials were free and fair. State chief minister Narendra Modi was in charge when the riots took place.
The court’s ruling followed its 27 April order seeking an inquiry into the role played by Modi and his government during the riots, which followed a fire aboard a train in Gujarat which killed 58 people, some of them Hindu pilgrims.
A bench headed by justice Arijit Pasayat said on Friday the court-appointed Special Investigation Team, which is probing the riot cases, will monitor the fast-track courts.
The fast-track courts will work daily on just the riot-related cases.
R.K. Raghavan, the team’s chief and a former director of the Central Bureau of Investigation, will have the authority to change public prosecutors if they are found to be not arguing cases properly, the court ruled. It also directed the government to provide proper protection to witnesses.
Raghavan hoped the trials will be concluded in less than a year.
“I cannot give a fixed deadline. I can only say that no time will be lost. I am hoping that these (trials) will come to a conclusion in about less than a year,” he told NDTV.
In March, Maya Kodnani, a minister in the state cabinet, surrendered after a special investigating team accused her of leading mobs that attacked Muslims during the riots. She has denied the allegations.
(‘PTI’ and Ashok Sharma of ‘AP’ contributed to this story.)