The Supreme Court on Monday rejected the plea to hear a case that linked Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to the 2002 religious riots referring it to a lower court, in a verdict that seen as a significant boost to the controversial BJP leader's ambitions in national politics.
Modi, who is widely credited for an economic boom in his state, is seen by political analysts as the best hope that the somewhat debilitated Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has of defeating the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition in 2014 General Elections.
In such a scene, the apex court's ruling, directing an Ahmedabad trial court to decide if Modi can be probed in the Gujarat riots case, in which he is accused of remaining inactive while mobs killed up to 2,500 people, mostly Muslims, could come as a leg up for his chances to run for Prime Minister.
Welcoming the decision, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley said the party stands 'vindicated'. "We stand vindicated. There is no evidence against Narendra Modi," Jaitley said at a press conference here on Monday.
"The due process of law has to be followed. There is a process in a criminal justice system. BJP´s position has always been that there is no evidence against Narendra Modi in the unfortunate 2002 riots," the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha said.
Referring to rival political parties, mainly Congress, Jaitley said: "There were allegations that Gujarat police´s investigations were not proper. The Supreme Court constituted SIT to probe investigations. Propaganda can never be a substitute for evidence. This has been proved today."
Meanwhile, welcoming the Supreme Court verdict, the Gujarat Chief Minister heaved a sigh of relief on Monday.
"God is great!," tweeted Modi on Monday afternoon.
While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the judgement is keeping with the law and their challenger social activist greeted as no clean chit to Modi, the complainant, widow of a Congress MP killed in the riots, was upset.
But later the Jafri family, which does not have faith in Gujarat courts, said the Supreme Court verdict was perhaps in keeping with the process of law and they have not lost hope.
The Supreme Court asked the trial court (which is a lower court) to examine the report of the Special Investigating Team (SIT) on the riots, after hearing a complaint by Zakia Jafri, wife of former Congress lawmaker Ehsaan Jafri who was killed during the post-Godhra riots.
Jafri was killed by the rioters who had attacked the Gulbarg Society in Feb 2002.
According to the complaint by Zakia Jafri, Modi and 62 others were behind plotting the riots.
The Supreme Court direction to the trial court initially upset Zakia who said no one was behind them despite atrocities and their fight for so many years.
"We will continue to fight and fight to the end and get justice," said daughter-in-law of Zakia Jafri later, adding that they have faith.
The SIT team headed by former CBI head RK Radhavan had in February submitted its report on the riots to the Supreme Court.
Social activist Teesta Setalvad, who is fighting for the Gujarat riots victims, said the media should not make a wrong meaning of the verdict since it is not a clean chit to Modi.
"I urge the media not to misinterpret the judgement. It is far from a clean chit. It is an order of due process," she said.
"It is now being sent to the magistrate for consideration as per law, now it has become a post FIR stage. This is a huge step forward," she said adding that the only thorn in the process is that the case will still be investigated by the SIT which has been questioned earlier.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Pramod Javadekar said those who are against Modi might find it frustrating but this is going according to law.
"This is the due process of law. I can understand the unhappiness of Modi baiter and hater. But we cannot help," said Javedkar.
Congress said the shadow of Gujarat riot would continue to chase Modi.
Though the SIT report, which was leaked to media, does not directly indict Modi for the riots due to lack of evidence, his role has been severely criticized for trying to downplay the seriousness of the incidents, reports said on Friday.
Modi´s comment that "every action has an equal and opposition reaction" on the Godhra riots has been particularly criticized in the report.
The report criticizes Modi´s stance on various events and issues during the riots, including his reaction to killing of a large number of Muslims in Gulburg Society and Naroda Patiya, his comments post Godhra and his passive stand on the investigations and inciting the emotions of Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) workers.