Plea in SC seeks reopening of Gandhi killing probe

Plea in SC seeks reopening of Gandhi killing probe

The Supreme Court on Friday decided to examine a plea seeking re-investigation into the conspiracy behind the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.

Although a bench of Justices S A Bobde and L Nageswara Rao expressed initial reluctance, wondering if there could still be evidence available now, it agreed to consider a plea filed by Mumbai-based Dr Pankaj Phadnis, a researcher and trustee of right-wing group Abhinav Bharat.

The court appointed senior advocate Amrendra Sharan as amicus curiae to assist it after going through the petition filed against a Bombay High Court's order of June 6, 2016, that had dismissed the plea for the appointment of a Commission of Inquiry to probe afresh the conspiracy behind Gandhi's killing on January 30, 1948.

Appearing in person, Phadnis contended that the Supreme Court never adjudicated this matter and the Kapur commission report has also not been presented in the apex court.

The conviction and execution of Nathuram Vinayak Godse and Narayan Apte on November 15, 1949 was affirmed by the East Punjab High Court.

As the petitioner claimed that another person might be involved in firing shots at Gandhi, the bench remarked, "We want to go by the law and not by passion." "Is that (third) person alive today to face trial,” the bench asked.

Responding to the query, Phadnis claimed that the assassination could have been carried out by an organised body, named Force 136 (a British special intelligence unit).

"We cannot convict an organisation. Do you know whether that person is alive," the bench further asked the petitioner, who said the matter could be investigated to ascertain the truth by forensic examination of the materials as well as documents.

Phadnis also cited a telegram sent from the US Embassy on January 30, 1948 and said that the message from Herbert Tom Reiner, the disbursing officer who was within five feet of Gandhi when he was shot, and had apprehended the assassin, could be examined.

The petitioner also sought time to file additional documents to support his claims. The court has posted the matter for consideration on October 30.

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