Gujarat: We’ve, unfortunately, complicated things out there
I never knew that answering a seemingly simple, innocuous questionnaire is all that people suspected of murder or contributing to such crimes are required to do.
I mean I never thought it could be so easy-going, until I saw the leaked questioning of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the Gujarat genocide 10 years ago. Take a look here.
I did not know that special investigation could almost mean investigation that considers its suspects “special”. No drilling beneath the statements, no cross-questioning and no “grilling”. The SIT questioning sounds almost as if Mr. Modi’s investigators were in the business of seeking his opinions, not extracting incriminating information.
The words “Special Investigation Team” sounded like a tough nut to me that would crack open hard-boiled criminals. It conjured up movie scenes of FBI sleuths intensely interrogating suspects.
Investigation I thought could not be plain Q&A. You know what I’m saying. Not when it concerns events of wanton destruction, of kids being tossed in the air, of stomachs being ripped open and stuffed with fire balls, of breasts being mutilated, of cut penises, of symbols being carved on shaven foreheads, of fingers being chopped, and of foetuses being scooped out.
I don’t quite understand the whole legal framework being applied in the case of Mr. Modi, who is often accused of not only not preventing the riots but aiding them. It has been a complex legal web anyways.
Something is ‘rotten in the state of Denmark’. I don’t understand why our courts, on the one hand, are responding to complaints of murder against Mr. Modi and yet not treating him as they would a usual murder suspect.
My confusion stems from the obvious differences in criminal investigation yardsticks that are applied to Mr. Modi and those generally applied.
Cracking the simplest of murders requires, at very the least, custodial interrogation, I thought. And this was going to be about ascertaining whether the head of government indeed had a role to play in what was genocide.
In its wisdom, the Supreme Court had ordered that the complaint of a riots survivor – the wife of a former MP burnt alive – be “looked into” by a special investigation team. That alone should have necessitated upgrading the specific complaint against Mr. Modi into a First Information Report (FIR), the basis for any criminal investigation to proceed.
Without that basis, how could Mr. Modi be investigated or just what is he being probed for? In that case, we are simply suspecting an honourable man. These may be unsophisticated questions but these larger questions of legality nonetheless arise in my mind.
I am not a constitutional expert. But common sense tells me that you don’t need special investigations to rule out or establish if Mr. Modi is guilty. It just might require something far more simple and standard: lodging of an FIR, diligent interrogation and an earnest trial. That should be good for Mr. Modi too. If he comes out unscathed, he will have shaken off a stigma that has stuck for long. Nobody will be able to point a finger at him anymore. And we will respect the court’s ultimate verdict.