Express news service : Gandhinagar, March 31

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had written a detailed letter to the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee stating how reputations of the institutions of governance and justice were at stake if victims of the 2002 riots failed to get justice. It also pointed out how the state government failed to protect human rights of its people and to provide justice to those whose rights had been violated.

The report was tabled in the state Assembly on Friday after a Gujarat High Court order to make public the report of 2002-03, which contains a chapter on post-Godhra riots.

A division bench of Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice J B Pardiwala had said in the order, “Such grave lapse (in tabling the report) on the part of the state government amounts to clear violation of Section 20 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.”

In chapter three of its report, the Commission observed, “It is a matter of some regret to the Commission that the principal recommendations and observations made by it in those proceedings, received an inadequate response from the Government of Gujarat. In consequence, it came as no surprise to the Commission that many of the grave misgivings that it expressed in those proceedings subsequently proved to be well-founded. Sadly, therefore, the initial failure to protect human rights was compounded by the failure – at least thus far – to provide justice to those whose rights had been violated.”

The letter by the NHRC’s then chairman justice JS Verma to Vajpayee, said, “With great respect, that if our country should fall short in rendering justice, promptly and effectively, to the victims, their families, dependents and other persons or groups connected with the victims, a serious travesty of the law will occur with potentially grave consequences, not only to those immediately affected, but to the reputation of our country and its institutions of governance, including the judiciary and the National Human Rights Commission.”

The NHRC had also critisied Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s move to organise Gaurav Yatra in the aftermath of the riots. It had suggested postponement of the programme.

The Commission had concluded by observing that it remained “fundamentally important, in such circumstances, that those responsible for the promotion of communal harmony and the maintenance of law and order — whether in the political or administrative leadership — should discharge their duties in the present and future in accordance with the Constitution and the relevant statutory provisions, or be answerable for such acts of omission or commission that result in the violation of the law and the rights to life, liberty, equality and dignity of their fellow human beings.”

The Commission had passed general legal actions and recommendations at that time for reinstating human rights of the riot-affected people.