Justice BN Srikrishna, the author of the commission report that went into the Mumbai communal riots of 1992-3, has called for an institutional mechanism which ensures that the government of the day does not have the discretion to reject a report it finds “inconvenient”.
“Any judge taking up such an assignment must do so on the promise that it (the report) is binding on the government,” Justice Srikrishna, who retired from the Supreme Court and now heads the Sixth Pay Commission, told an English daily, The Indian Express (Aug 6, 2007).
“In several countries like Australia and South Africa, the findings of such a report are binding on the government. Why should that not be the case here? I have spent five years of my life looking into the Mumbai riots, with government money, in the time when I could have disposed at least 20,000 cases, so why let that go waste?”
“A Commission of Inquiry is not a court of law. A Commission is intended to ascertain the turn of events and advise the government, so the government can sit down seriously and investigate, use the facts provided to file a complaint. And the Commission had got suitable facts and material which the government could have used to file its case in the matter of Mumbai in 1992/3,” he said. The Srikrishna Commission report is back in the news with a petition being filed in the Supreme Court, wanting to know why no action has been taken on the report despite the fact that it fixed responsibility on certain organisations, political leaders and police officers for the riots in Mumbai just after the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
Nearly 1,000 people are known to have died in the riots that Justice Srikrishna investigated. In a few months, after the riots, on March 12 in 1993, Mumbai was rocked by serial blasts that killed 250 people. Why has no government in Maharashtra, even the Congress-NCP in power now, taken his report seriously? Justice Srikrishna said: “I wouldn’t know that. I am a babe in the woods as far as understanding political equations go. I am a simple judge, who can say what is black and white. The blue and the red in between is beyond me.”
Asked to recall his toughest moments while compiling the report, he said; “If the police does some fair documenting, that serves as a useful tool, and can be taken as the authentic account of what has happened. But if the protector himself is biased, then it becomes very difficult. You have to go for other witnesses. Now if a police document says X, but witnesses all say Y, and I know X is a doctored document, it becomes a difficult choice for me. When all the way from the CM to a police constable, there is heavy bias. But what happened, and my observations are there, is in black and white for all to see.” Justice Srikrishna said riots and terror attacks are different from each other, and both, difficult to investigate.
“Riots are by their very nature about passions flaring up, while bomb blasts are cold-blooded acts, meticulously planned. Communal riots can also be built up over a period of time because of several kinds of provocations or can be an instant conflagration.”