Former Supreme Court judge Justice Girish Thakorlal Nanavati, of Nanavati Commission fame, died of a cardiac failure at 1:15 pm on 18th December in Ahmedabad at the age of 86. He was born on February 17, 1935.
Justice Nanavati was enrolled as an advocate in the Bombay High Court on February 11, 1958 and was a permanent judge at the Gujarat High Court from July 19, 1979 till he was transferred to the Orissa High Court on December 14, 1993 where he was appointed as the Chief Justice of the Orissa HC with effect from January 31, 1994.
Later Justice Nanavati was transferred as Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court from September 28, 1994 and then appointed as judge of the Supreme Court with effect from March 6, 1995, and retired on February 16, 2000.
Justice Nanavati will be remembered for his association with probe of two of independent India’s ghastliest riots. Justice Nanavati was appointed to a one-man commission to investigate the 1984 anti-Sikh riots by the BJP-led NDA government in May 2000. The report, submitted in 2005, claimed that that there was “credible evidence” against then Union Minister and Congress leader Jagdish Tytler and other Congress leaders. The Anti Sikh riots had broken out following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984.
However, in recent memory, Justice Nanavati commission was appointed in 2002 by the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi to probe the riots in which over 1,000 people mainly from the minority community lost their lives in communal violence that ensued after the burning of two coaches of the Sabarmati Express train near the Godhra railway station, in which 59 Hindu pilgrims, returning from Ayodhya died.
Justices Nanavati and Akshay Mehta had submitted their final report on the 2002 riots to the then Gujarat CM Anandiben Patel in 2014. The Report gave a clean chit to the Narendra Modi government which was in office at the time of the riots. The report said the riots were “not a pre-planned conspiracy or orchestrated violence,” and there was “no substance in the allegation that state authorities turned a blind eye to the violence”.
The Nanavati commission did it find any evidence against “any religious or political party or organisations as such,” though local members of the Vishva Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal took part in the incidents of violence.
The commission was reconstituted with Nanavati as its chairman and former Gujarat High Court judge KG Shah as a member and after Justice Shah died, former HC judge Akshay Mehta was included. The report was tabled before the Gujarat Assembly in December 2019, when Vijay Rupani was chief minister.