Tehelka Tapes of no avail, "sensational" revelations collapse like a house of cards: Supreme Court

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The appeal had challenged an October 5, 2017 Gujarat High Court order upholding the decision of the magistrate court which has accepted the closure report filed by the SIT.

The Supreme Court has highlighted that the appeal which was filed by Zakia Jafri, wife of Congress MP Ehsan Jafri who was killed in the riots that followed the Godhra Carnage in Gujarat in 2002, challenging the clean chit handed over to the current Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi by the SIT is "devoid of merits".

The Justice AM Khanwilkar led bench has stated that though the Appellant has heavily relied on the Tehelka tapes which surfaced in 2007 among other things, the fact of the matter is they were considered "at great length" by the Court between 2008 and 2011 whilst monitoring the investigation done by the SIT and culminating in final report. 

Top Court has added that the Tehelka tapes are of "no avail" since the extra-judicial confessions which have been made in the tapes do not stand the test of law as and extra judicial confession can only be taken against the maker of the statement and not against any other persons referred to in such a statement. 

"..... it does not follow that the contents of such tape would have probative value. Upon investigation, if it was to be found that the tape and the contents have probative value, only then it could be used, that too against the maker of the statement alone and not against any other person"

While dismissing the appeal, the Supreme Court has said that doubting the wisdom of this court would be a travesty of justice when the entire investigation which was completed by the SIT on all aspects was supervised and monitored.

The Court has found that the findings of the SIT had also to pass through the strict scrutiny of the Amicus Curiae assisting this Court, who was authorised to even interact with the witnesses examined/questioned by the SIT.

While delving specifically into the reliance placed by the deceased Congress Leaders wife and on Tehelka Sting operation, the Supreme Court has said that SIT recorded statements of all the relevant persons who were stung in the Tehelka Sting Operation.

Further to this, the Court has stated that the argument which is founded basis the Tehelka tapes that there was build-up of arms and ammunition in Gujarat even before Godhra train incident, it is clear that the contents of the transcript are not corroborated from the material available with the SIT.

In fact, the Court has highlighted that the sessions court in one of the cases arising out from Meghaninagar PS has revealed that there is no evidence or recovery of the bullet fired from private weapon by any member of the mob and that the material which was recovered from the scene of offence were "empty cartridge shells and bullet casings" which were "established to be fired from the licenses weapon under the ownership of Late Mr. Ehsan Jafri".

It has been held that the The Tehelka Sting Operation in a way relates to the allegation regarding criminal conspiracy at the local level which has nothing to do with the allegations of a "larger conspiracy" which was inquired into by the SIT. Be it as it may, the Court has found that the local level conspiracy has already been investigated in respective cases including in the nine cases investigated by the SIT under supervision of the Top Court.

The Court went on to accept the argument of the Counsel for the SIT who stated that Jafri had been "changing goalposts" at every stage of the proceedings before different courts on account of the fact that though at one point, she had been alleging "larger criminal conspiracy at the highest level" through the Tehelka Tapes basis "sensational revelations" by Sanjeev Bhatt and Haren Pandya (claiming larger conspiracy by officials of highest levels), the falsity of which was exposed by the SIT, before the Supreme Court she alleged that there "can be no direct evidence regarding larger conspiracy".

"This argument, we unhesitatingly opine, is nothing short of red herring. In that, emphasis has been placed on evidence such as SIB messages. What has been conveniently glossed over is that, to make out a case of larger criminal conspiracy, it is essential to establish a link indicative of meeting of minds of the concerned persons for commission of the crime(s), committed during the relevant period across the State including the heart-rending episode unfolded at Godhra on 27.2.2002, in which large number of Kar-sevaks were burnt alive in train bogies. No such link is forthcoming, much less had been unraveled and established in any of the nine (9) cases investigated by the same SIT under the directions of this Court."

Court has stated that besides exposing the falsity of the claims of these two persons (Bhatt and Pandya), the SIT has been able to collate materials indicative of the amount of hard work and planning of the concerned State functionaries in their attempt to control the spontaneous evolving situation of mass violence across the State of Gujarat, despite the handicap of administration including the inadequate State police force required to be replenished with central forces/Army, which were called without loss of time and the repeated appeals made by the then Chief Minister publicly to maintain peace.

The court has further stated that the testimony of Mr. Sanjiv Bhatt, Mr. Haren Pandya and also of Mr. R.B. Sreekumar was only to sensationalize and politicize the matters in issue, although, replete with falsehood.

"For, persons not privy to the stated meeting, where utterances were allegedly made by the then Chief Minister, falsely claimed themselves to be eye-witnesses and after thorough investigation by the SIT, it has become clear that their claim of being present in the meeting was itself false to their knowledge. On such false claim, the structure of larger criminal conspiracy at the highest level has been erected. The same stands collapsed like a house of cards, aftermath thorough investigation by the SIT."

Case Title: Zakia Ahsan Jafri Vs. State of Gujarat & Anr.