New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday adjourned the plea of Zakia Jafri challenging the clean chit given by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to PM Narendra Modi, other top politicians, and bureaucrats in the 2002 Gujarat riots, till January third week.  This is the third time the top court has deferred the hearing. PM Modi was then Gujarat Chief Minister.

On November 26, the bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar had deferred the hearing in the case by a week. The hearing was earlier deferred on November 19 by seven days.

At the outset, senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for SIT, had said Zakia’s plea was not maintainable and social activist Teesta Seetalvad cannot be the second petitioner in the case.

The bench said it will look into the application before hearing the matter on making Seetalvad as the second petitioner in Jafri’s plea.

Zakia, the wife of Ehsan Jafri, an ex-MP who was killed in one of the worst incidents during the riots, has challenged the Gujarat High Court’s October 5, 2017 order rejecting her plea against the SIT’s decision.

On October 13, a bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and Deepak Gupta said the matter will be heard on November 19, as the court has not gone through the petition in detail.

During a brief hearing earlier this month, senior advocate C U Singh, appearing for Jafri said notice needs to be issued in the plea as it pertains to the aspect of “larger conspiracy” during the period from February 27, 2002 and May 2002.

He also maintained that after the SIT gave a clean chit in its closure report in the case before a trial judge, a protest was filed by the petitioner which was dismissed by the magistrate without considering the “substantiated merits”.

On February 8, 2012, the SIT filed a closure report, giving the clean chit to Modi and 63 others, including senior government officials, saying there was “no prosecutable evidence” against them.

The Supreme Court bench also noted the office report’s remarks that the plea should be tagged along with the pending criminal appeals in the case.

Senior advocate C S Vaidyanathan, appearing for Gujarat government opposed the suggestion and said that it is a separate case and should not be tagged along with the criminal appeals. The state government advocate also opposed issuing of a notice in the plea.

“May be registry has wrongly mentioned in the office report. We have not gone through the petition in detail. It will be better if we take up the matter on November 19,” the bench said.

Ehsan Jafri was among 68 people who were killed at the Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad when a mob attacked it on February 28, 2002, a day after the S-6 Coach of the Sabarmati Express returning from Ayodhya at Godhra was burned, triggering the riots in Gujarat.