Arun Jaitley, general secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party, has described the interim report submitted by Justice U C Banerjee report on the Godhara train fire that took place on Februrary 27, 2002 as politically motivated.
"When the committee was appointed by railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav in September 2004, we had expressed apprehension about the motive behind the move. Today (Monday) Justice Banerjee gave his interim report saying that the fire had started from inside the train bogey S-6 and was accidental in nature. With the submission of the report our worst fears have come true," Jaitley told newsmen at a hurriedly arranged press conference at the party headquarters in New Delhi.
"The railway minister can appoint a committee to go into the lapses by railway officials or damage to railway property; but railways has no jurisdiction over investigations into a crime committed by the accused, who have been denied bail by various courts including the Supreme Court of India. The main motive behind issuing an interim report is to give political advantage to Lalu in the Bihar elections," he said.
He questioned the timing of the report itself especially when the committee had been given extension upto March 3, 2005.
"If the report had been submitted by Justice Banerjee on March 3, it would have been of no use to Lalu because by them the Bihar elections would have ended. The motive behind getting a report now is to help the persons arrested in the incident. Lalu is trying to consolidate his Muslim votes in a bid to retain power," Jaitley alleged.
He agreed with the report that the fire had started from inside bogey number four, but claimed that the big crowd had broken open S-6 and thrown petrol inside and started the fire.
"This report has been prepared without going into available evidence. Justice Banerjee does not seem to have referred to the charge sheet. More importantly, a commission appointed by the erstwhile National Democratic Alliance government is also looking into the matter. The nomination of Justice Banerjee has been done by the government without consulting the chief justice of the Supreme court of India," he said.