A perplexing ruling by the Supreme Court has catapulted Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi back into the spotlight for his alleged role in preventing police from stopping riots that killed more than a thousand Muslims in Ahmedabad in 2002.
Both Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party and his most vocal critics are claiming victory, as the court stopped short of endorsing the case against Modi or quashing it entirely. Instead, the bench asked a lower court in Gujarat to investigate the issue, and (more pointedly, perhaps) said it would no longer ride herd on the state's investigation of the riots.
The case in question deals with an effort by Zakia Jafri to lodge a criminal case against Modi. Jafri's husband was killed in the so-called Gulberg Housing Society massacre along with 68 others. However, she was forced to seek relief from the supreme court after lower authorities refused to register a case against Modi.
According to the Hindustan Times, following the ruling senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley said there was no evidence of involvement of Modi in the riots and apex court's order has vindicated the BJP stand. Echoing similar views, leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushama, Sushma Swaraj said Modi has passed agnipareeksha (test by fire) and truth has emerged victorious.
However, the Congress and the Left rejected BJP's contention, saying that the court's decision to distance itself from direct monitoring of the case was not tantamount to a rejection of the charges against Modi.
Social activist Teesta Setalvad described the Supreme Court verdict in the Gulberg Society massacre case as a "hugeTh step forward".
Setelvad's NGO, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), was a co-petitioner in the case.
"While the prayer in our petition was for the registration of an FIR against the chief minister and 61 others and the transfer of the investigation to the CBI, the order of the court goes much beyond this and in fact directs the SIT to chargesheet all accused on the basis of our complaint," she stated in her reaction, the HT said.
Though Modi remains controversial and has in the past been denied a travel visa for the United States due to his alleged role in the 2002 riots, he is also one of India's most popular politicians. He has helped make Gujarat one of India's fastest growing states -- recently attracting billion dollar projects from Ford and Peugeot -- and his name continually surfaces as a possible prime ministerial candidate for the BJP.