The Supreme Court on Friday heard a plea seeking reopening of the investigation into the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. During the hearing, the court appointed senior advocate and former additional solicitor general Amrender Sharan as amicus curiae to assist the court in the matter.
The hearing, which lasted for about 15 minutes, the apex court initially said that “nothing can be done in law” in the case which was decided long ago. But, it later told Sharan that its observation was not binding on him to make an assessment of the matter. The court then posted the matter for further hearing on October 30.
The petition filed by Mumbai-based Dr Pankaj Phadnis , a researcher and a trustee of Abhinav Bharat, has sought reopening of the probe on several grounds, claiming it was one of the biggest cover-ups in history.
Gandhi was shot dead at point blank range in New Delhi on January 30, 1948 by Nathuram Vinayak Godse, a right-wing advocate of Hindu nationalism.
“What can we do now at this stage,” the bench comprising of Justices S A Bobde and L Nageswara Rao asked the petitioner.
“Why should we reopen this now? We will give you as much time you want but you tell us why should we reopen a finding that has been affirmed,” the bench questioned.
The petitioner had sought some additional time to file certain crucial documents relating to the case.
Phadnis argued that appeals filed by the convicts in the assassination case were dismissed in 1949 by the East Punjab High Court, following which the Privy Council had sent the matter back on the ground that the Supreme Court of India will came into existence in January 1950.
“The Supreme Court never adjudicated this matter,” Phadnis added.
When he said that another person might be involved in firing shots at Mahatma Gandhi, the bench said “we want to go by the law and not by political passion”.
“You say that there was someone else, a third person who killed him (Gandhi). Is that person alive today to face the trial,” the bench asked.
Phadnis then argued that the assassination of Mahatma could have been carried out by an organised body.
At the end of the hearing, the bench told the petitioner that it needed legal assistance in the case and asked Sharan, who was present in the court room, to assist it in the matter.
Sharan said he would assist the court and sought some time to go through the documents filed by the petitioner.
Phadnis has challenged the decision of the Bombay High Court, which on June 6, 2016 had dismissed his PIL on two grounds — firstly, that the findings of fact have been recorded by the competent court and confirmed right up to the apex court, and secondly, the Kapur Commission has submitted its report and made the observations in 1969, while the present petition has been filed 46 years later.
In the petition, Phadnis has also questioned the ‘three bullet theory’ relied upon by various courts of law to hold the conviction of accused — Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte, who were hanged to death on November 15, 1949, and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar who was given the benefit of doubt due to lack of evidence.
The petitioner also claimed that the Justice J L Kapur Commission of Inquiry set up in 1966 was not able to unearth the entire conspiracy that had led to the killing of Gandhi.
(With inputs from PTI)