Justice Nanavati, head of panels investigating the 1984 and 2002 riots, has died


Maulik Nanavati, his younger son, who is a lawyer at Gujarat High Court, said Nanavati suffered from pulmonary fibrosis and died after a heart attack. “His system became weaker due to age and illness,” Maulik said.

In his 2002 investigative report of the riots, submitted in two parts – one in 2008 about the Sabarmati Express fire, in which 59 people, mostly Kar-sevaks returning from Ayodhya, were killed; and another in 2014 about the unrest that followed the incident, which was announced in 2019 – Justice Nanavati gave a clean slate to the then Gujarat prime minister Narendra Modi, and his Council of Ministers.

Describing Judge Nanavati as “one of the best judges” and a “great man”, with a “quick grip on the law”, Advocate General Gujarat Kamal Trivedi said, “He was a man with a lot of warmth, not only for his family, but for each and every one, especially the larger fraternity of lawyers. He was very straightforward. “

Senior Gujarat High Court lawyer Yatin Oza said Nanavati “had no bias or favoritism”. “There was nothing that could affect him, and even under the most difficult situations, he kept his balance.”

One of the hardest episodes in Nanavati’s life was investigating the Gujarat riots. He was appointed to chair the Commission of Inquiry in 2002.

Trivedi said he “rendered a great service” in the probe. “The Nanavati Commission continued for a very long time because the state of Gujarat after 2001 experienced a roller coaster ride and what was right, what was wrong was not known by many people … His report shed light on the function of the police department, the state government’s approach as well as the responsibilities of the people as a whole. “

When Judge Nanavati was appointed to lead the investigation in 2002, he already led one one-man commission in the 1984 riots. He was elected in 2000 to investigate the anti-Sikh violence, three months after he withdrew from the Supreme Court, by the NDA government led by AB Vajpayee, and submitted his report in 2005.

Comparisons were made between the two inquiries, in particular the fact that while Judge Nanavati during the 1984 inquiry examined two former prime ministers Narasimha Rao and IK Gujral, apart from several former congressional ministers, he did not convene Modi in the 2002 inquiry. The terms of reference of the Nanavati Commission had been extended in 2004 to include a study of the role of the CM and his Council of Ministers.

Asked why the commission had not investigated Modi, Nanavati said Indian Express in 2014, after submitting his final report that he did not find sufficient “justification” to summon anyone.

The Commission concluded that there was no conspiracy in the post-Godhra riots. “Anger, along with hatred and anger towards Muslims, developed as a result of past events (that) drove these sections of Hindus to attack Muslims and their property. They do not appear to have acted that way because of anyone encouragement or encouragement from others or because of any assurance that the police or government will not take any action against them for their violent actions. The mob were defiant. They were ready to defy the law and the police. They were out to punish the Muslims. for what happened to Hindus at Godhra the previous day, ”the commission said.

In the Sikh insurgency investigation, Judge Nanavati clearly linked the attacks on Sikhs with the assassination of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. However, he purged her successor and son Rajiv Gandhi and said: “There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that Shri Rajiv Gandhi or any other senior Congress (I) leader had proposed or organized attacks on Sikhs. Whatever actions were taken “they were carried out by the leaders and workers of the local Congress (I) and they appear to have done so for their personal political reasons. They do not appear to have done so solely for personal reasons.”

Judge Nanavati’s father was a practicing lawyer in Jambusar, Bharuch, and he took his schooling in Gujarat before moving to Bombay to graduate and then study law. He enlisted as a lawyer at Bombay High Court in 1958. He was appointed to the Gujarat High Court in July 1979, transferred to the Orissa High Court in 1993, where he became Chief Justice in January 1994, and later that year transferred as CJ to Karnataka. High Court. Justice Nanavati was appointed Supreme Court Justice in March 1995 and retired in 2000.

In his short five-odd months as Karnataka Chief Justice, Judge Nanavati left an “indelible mark,” Karnataka Attorney General Prabhuling Navadgi said. He recalled Nanavati as “a strict disciplinarian” who “never tolerated a lawyer who had not come fully prepared”. “Young lawyers shuddered as he entered his courtroom.”

Apart from the riot investigations in 1984 and 2002, Judge Nanavati headed a commission of inquiry into the regularization of unauthorized colonies / structures at the NCT in Delhi in 2005. He was nominated by the Center as nominated by the Permanent Court of Arbitration and continued to deal with arbitration cases from all over India after retirement.

In August this year, he withdrew from a three-man court for health reasons in an arbitration case involving Arcelor Mittal Nippon Steel and Essar Bulk Terminal.

Maulik said that in his last days he tried to detach himself from the judicial system and involved himself in philanthropic work.

Apart from Maulik, Justice Nanavati is survived by his wife and another lawyer son, Dhaval.

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