The Supreme Court today lifted the stay on trial of 2002 Gujarat riots cases and directed the setting up of fast track courts for holding it on a day-to-day basis. The apex court ordered the setting up of designated courts for riot cases in Ahmedabad, Anand, Sabarkanta, Mehsana and Gulbarga districts.
A bench headed by Justice Arijit Pasayat said it was necessary to hold day-to-day trial considering the fact that seven years have passed.
The court took into consideration the report filed by Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by former CBI director R K Raghavan which probed the cases.
The court said the Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court will appoint expert lawyers in criminal trial as public prosecutors for the trial of cases.
The bench said it would be open for the chairman of the SIT to seek change of public prosecutors if any deficiency was found during the trial.
Further the chairman of SIT can make a request to the Advocate General of the state on the appointment of assistant public prosecutors to assist the public prosecutors, it said.
The SIT and its chairman will keep track of the trial and file quarterly report to the apex court.
The apex court also gave liberty to the SIT to recommend the cancellation of bail if it is considered necessary.
Expressing "happiness" over the court's order, Raghavan said, "I think it is going to facilitate the work of the SIT in Gujarat. I look forward to further work in that direction."
He said, "It is very humbling to know that the apex court has so much trust in me" and added that the court wanted him to ensure that witnesses were given due protection.
Noting that the SIT had submitted two reports giving the status of investigation, Raghavan said in some cases more arrests had been made.
Hoping early conclusion of the trials, he said "I can only say that no time will be lost...I am hoping that these will come to a conclusion in about a less than a year."
The court said that the SIT will act as a nodal agency to decide as to which witnesses in the case should be given protection and relocated.
It said the witnesses have to be provided security for their safe passage and if necessary at their place of living during the trial.
The court said that it would be for the Central para-military forces to provide security for the witnesses.
It said the Central Government will make arrangements if relocation of witnesses was required. To avoid any unruly scenes during the trial process, the court will have to be stern.
The Bench gave liberty to the SIT to approach the apex court at any stage for redressal of any grievances.
The apex court said that the SIT will file quarterly reports on the progress of the cases in sealed cover. The SIT, which has investigated 10 cases including the Godhra train burning and subsequent riots cases, had submitted its report before the apex court in March.
The apex court had on March 26, 2008, constituted SIT which besides Raghavan as its head has former DG of UP Police C D Satpathy and three IPS officers from Gujarat Geeta Johri, Shivanand Jha and Ashish Bhatia as its members.
The SIT was asked to "inquire and investigate" cases relating to Godhra carnage in which 59 people were killed and subsequent riots in places like Godhra, Gulbarg Society in Ahmedabad, Naroda Gaon, Naroda Patiya and Sardarpura.