It is sometimes claimed that “…the Supreme Court, generally reckoned one of the few incorruptible institutions left in India, can’t find Modi guilty” (comment on a Guardian opinion piece.) This misses the fact that Modi has neither been tried, nor been exhonerated, for his role in the violence in Gujarat in 2002. The legal argument to date has centred on whether he should stand trial. A Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court questioned Modi in 2010 during which he denied all responsibility or claimed he could not recollect events.
The SIT concluded that it did not find any substantial incriminating evidence against Modi of willfully allowing the communal violence (see, for example, The Times of India). However this assessment was contradicted by the evidence it documented, and by the Supreme Court’s own amicus curiae, Raju Ramachandran, who independently examined the evidence (for example, The Hindu). Considerable doubt has been cast on the credibility of the SIT byR.B. Sreekumar, former Gujarat State Director-General of Police and a variety of other commentators (for example: The Hindu,Communalism Combat, NDTV and a detailed and careful study by Manoj Mitta). These commentators note a large number of logical and factual errors in its report, arbitrary choices to ignore certain strands of evidence; the SIT also chose to ignore parts of its mandate, failing to investigate many elements of the conspiracy behind the violence of Gujarat 2002.
In this context, in February 2013, the Supreme Court allowed a petition, the Zakia Jafri protest petition, against the SIT report which, if successful, would have paved the way for a prosecution of Modi. Citizens for Justice and Peace, who supported the petition, produce detailed reports on the proceedings. A Gujarat magistrates court rejected the petition in December 2013, and Zakia Jafri has filed a criminal revision application before the Gujarat High Court challenging the order of the magistrates court (this will be heard on April 11th 2014). While many NGOs and individuals, including a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, believe Modi should stand trial, it remains an open question whether the evidence of Modi’s complicity in the violence will be tested in court.