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Fierce debate during Nanavati panel hearing

January 19, 2005 00:43 IST

During a Nanavati Commission hearing on Tuesday, there was a fierce debate over the cross-examination of Noel Parmar, deputy superintendent of police, Western Railways (Baroda Division), the investigating officer in the Godhra case.

The cross-examination, carried out by advocate Mukul Sinha before Justice (retd) G T Nanavati and Justice (retd) K G Shah in Ahmedabad, ended on a bitter note.

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The problem started over the issue of who pulled the chain in coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express for the second time.

This information is important because people who don't believe the police maintain that the chain was pulled only once.

The investigators say that the conspirators had pulled the chain again to stop the Sabarmati Express so that they could get inflammable material up to coach S-6 from the nearby Aman guesthouse.

When Sinha asked Parmar to name the accused, he named Iliyas Mulla and Anwar Kalandhar.

He said they were working at the behest of their employer, Saleem Panwala, who is still absconding.

Sinha then asked Parmar to show him on which page of the police report these two names were given.

Parmar asked, "Is it my job to find out?"

Sinha said how he could be expected to read the 2,200 pages submitted by the investigators.

At this point, Justice Nanawati said Parmar was merely a production witness and was before the commission only to deposit the data of the investigation.

He also remarked that Sinha should have done his homework better.

Parmar could be one of the most important witnesses because he was a man "who knows too much", he said.

The officer had investigated the case from scratch under the supervision of Rakesh Astana, special IG, Baroda Range.

The commission restrained Sinha from asking Parmar any questions pertaining to the investigation.

Parmar had insisted that since the investigation was still on he should not be asked "sensitive" questions.

But Sinha was keen to interrogate Parmar on the basis of the deposition of K C Bawa, who had headed the investigations earlier.

Bawa had told the panel that he had not found evidence of involvement of any foreign agency in the incident.

He had also said that karsevaks had pulled the chain the first time round. He did not know who pulled it again.

Since Parmar had succeeded Bawa, the latter's statements before the commission needed to be double-checked.

When the argument went on, Sinha stopped cross-examining.

Sinha confirmed that Justice Nanawati did lose his cool, "but that is a small issue".

He added, "Yesterday, I was allowed to ask him many questions but today, after the submission of Justice Bannerji's interim report, I was asked to restrain myself. When I was told that he is only a production witness, I closed my cross-examination."

Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi