January 23, 2005

Mockery of justice --Banerjee Commission Report on the Godhra

By Ram Madhav
Spokesman, RSS

It is for more than one reason that the Banerjee Commission Report on the Godhra incident lacks any credibility. The constitution of this commission itself was ultra vires. There was already a commission headed by Justices Nanavati and Shah investigating this case. Under the Commission of Enquiry Act, two commissions cannot be appointed for the same purpose simultaneously.

Second, the hurried manner in which the interim report has been submitted too smacks of some sinister motive. The author of the report appeared to be serving his bosses most loyally in terms of not only the content but also the timing. Producing a half-baked report full of half-truths just two weeks before some crucial elections where the fortunes of the current and former Railway Ministers are at stake speaks volumes about the credibility of this report.

The very fact that an interim report was sought to be released to the media, as against the normal practice of submitting to the ministry; and refusal by the head of the commission to take any questions from the journalists is suggestive of dubious intentions. Normally senior members of the judiciary are expected to display judicial conscience in order to uphold the trust of the people in that institution. But the retired judge heading the commission has caused severe dent to the image of that institution by accepting to probe while two of his brother judges were already on the job. His so-called findings make a mockery of the judicial investigative process. His comments to the media on the day of the release - when he declared he was unaware of any election in any part of the country - only compounded this mockery.

According to the commission's findings, Godhra was just an accident caused by a fire originating from either half-burnt cigarettes or electrical short circuit or some cooking activity inside the coach. The entire S-6 coach of the Sabarmati Express was burnt down in just seven minutes killing 58 people - just by cigarette butts! This is despite the fact that the Railways uses fire retardent and self-extinguishing material inside its compartments, which do not allow any fire to spread fast. So how did the panel arrive at such conclusions?

In fact, the commission is only a departmental inquiry lacking any authority or expertise to go into the conspiracy angle of the case. It did not consult a single officer who was involved in the investigation process to find out their findings. It has not contacted any forensic science expert who has studied the incident in detail. Yet the commission has jumped to the conclusion that no outsider entered the coach.

The investigating agencies and forensic experts have gathered concrete evidence that there was a conspiracy to attack this train and the conspirators were waiting for its arrival at Godhra in the early hours of February 27, 2002. They have concluded that the attackers had used swords to cut the vestibule between S-5 and S-6 coaches, forced their entry into the compartment and set it on fire using 60 litres of petrol, which was collected in cans on February 26, 2002, from a nearby petrol station and kept ready. A mob of more than 2000 then surrounded the coach and threw burning rags from outside through the windows, not allowing the hapless passengers any escape route.

The report of this so-called commission is theatre enacted for political mileage to the ruling party in the ensuing Bihar elections. That is not even a major issue because it is for the Muslims of that State to decide how long and how many times would they like themselves to be befooled by pseudo-secular lumpens.

But there are larger questions involved. Can senior members of the judiciary be allowed to become pawns in the hands of politicians? Can't the Supreme Court evolve a code of conduct for all members of the judiciary - present and past - in order to sustain the trust of the people in the institution? Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav has destroyed all political institutions in his State systematically. It is criminals who rule the roast in Bihar. Should we allow him to destroy the rest of the country to let him protect and promote criminals all over the country? Or should we support and strengthen law and order machinery to do its job without interference?

Tailpiece: If the Godhra fire was just an accident, then, according to Justice Banerjee's logic, how to describe the Best Bakery fire in which large quantities of inflammable material were already present since it was a bakery? Can we shed tears only for Best Bakery victims and make a mockery of the wails of those innocent men, women and children killed in the S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express?

Rammadhav Spokesman RSS


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