In what could be termed a setback to the UPA , the Gujarat High Court on Friday struck down the Centre’s decision to set up the UC Banerjee Committee to probe the Sabarmati Express mishap in 2002. The apex court termed the setting up of the panel as “illegal”.
Justice BH Vaghela gave the order on a petition filed by a survivor of the Godhra carnage, Neelkanth Bhatia, who had challenged the setting up of Banerjee panel when the Nanawati Shah Commission was already probing the matter.
On its part, an upbeat BJP, claimed the court’s decision a vindication of its stand and asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to dismiss the railway minister if he refused to quit after the court’s indictment.
BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley said as the Nanavati Shah Commission was already probing the Godhra incident and the subsequent riots in Gujarat, there was no need for an alternate inquiry.
According to the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 there cannot be two different commisions appointed by the Centre and a state government on the same matter of public importance. The Narendra Modi government had appointed a panel headed by Justice Nanavati to probe the case of murder and subsequent riots in Godhra.
However, the UPA government approved the railway ministry’s proposal to appoint a commission headed by Banerjee with the terms of reference, primarily being on the cause of fire in the Sabarmati Express, nearly three years later.
While the Nanavati panel is yet to submit its report, the Banerjee panel — in its preliminary report — had said the fire started from within the S6 coach of the Sabarmati Express, thus nulling the arson theory as being the cause of death for the many kar sevaks.