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'It's a travesty of justice if cases not given to CBI'  

Ahmedabad: Will a majority of the rioters go scot free if the investigations into the recent communal riots remain in the hands of the agencies of the Gujarat government?

This is a vital underlying question running through the voluminous final report of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) released on May 31.

The nature of investigations into the recent communal riots in Gujarat have come under the close scrutiny of various agencies, most recently the NHRC which has called for a CBI inquiry into major carnage cases to ensure impartiality.



"It would thus be a travesty of the principles of criminal justice if such cases were not transferred to the CBI. Worse still, the inability to do so could severely compromise the fundamental rights to life, liberty, equality and dignity guaranteed by the Constitution to all of the people of India on a non-discriminatory basis."



"The Commission would like to underline that it is a central principle in the administration of criminal justice that those against whom allegations are made should not themselves be entrusted with the investigation of those allegations. It has universally been the practice to act on this principle, including in this country," the NHRC observed in its final report.

In view of the widespread allegations that FIRs had been poorly or wrongly recorded and that investigations had been 'influenced' by extraneous considerations or players, the Commission had stated that the integrity of the process had to be restored. It had therefore recommended that certain critical cases, including five that it had specifically mentioned, be entrusted to the CBI.

However, the Narendra Modi government seems to be in no mood to let go off the investigations. The State Government responded on April 12 to the NHRC saying "An investigation conducted by the state police cannot be discredited, cannot be put into disrepute and its fairness questioned merely on the basis of hostile propaganda."

It added that transference of these cases to the CBI would "indefinitely delay the investigation" and help the accused persons to get bail. It also stated that the CBI is already understaffed and over-burdened. The NHRC has, however, observed that in respect of the cases listed by the Commission for CBI investigations, the allegations of inaction, or complicity by the elements of the state apparatus were grave and severely damaging to its credibility and integrity.

"It would thus be a travesty of the principles of criminal justice if such cases were not transferred to the CBI. Worse still, the inability to do so could severely compromise the fundamental rights to life, liberty, equality and dignity guaranteed by the Constitution to all of the people of India on a non-discriminatory basis."

The central government, in its response to the NHRC's request for a CBI probe, has stated that under existing rules, the CBI can take up the investigation of cases only if the state government addresses and appropriately requests the CBI to do so.

The NHRC has, however, responded that it is "emphatically of the view that the role of the Central Government in respect of the investigation of the cases identified by the Commission should go beyond a mere invocation of the 'existing rules' in respect of when the CBI can take up a case for investigation (Times News Network, June 3, 2002).
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