Though the police went by the theory that three bullets were fired upon him, was there a fourth bullet also which was fired by someone apart from Nathuram Godse? Also, the inclusion of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in this list is being questioned. This and more is what is being asked in a PIL on Mahatma Gandhi’s death.

A petition by Dr Pankaj Phadnis, a researcher and a trustee of Abhinav Bharat, Mumbai, has claimed that the Justice J L Kapur Commission of Inquiry set up in 1966 had not been able to unearth the entire conspiracy that culminated in the killing of Mahatma Gandhi.

What does the petition inquire of the Supreme Court?

#The petition before the Supreme Court insists that there is a compelling need to uncover the larger conspiracy behind the murder of Mahatma Gandhi by constituting a new Commission of Inquiry.

#The petition also raises questions about the investigation into Gandhi's murder suggesting whether it was one of the biggest cover-ups in history and also whether there was any basis to blame Vinayak Damodar Savarkar for his death?

#The petition questions the three bullet theory relied upon by various courts of law to hold the conviction of accused, including Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte, who were hanged to death on November 15, 1949, while Savarkar was given the benefit of doubt due to lack of evidence.

#The petitioner said the case is one which concerns the truth behind the real hands or culprits who performed the dastardly act of Gandhi's killing and also their hidden agenda of derailing the Great Gandhi-Jinnah People-to-People Contact that the Mahatma had planned to embark upon.

#This plan was derailed because of the assassination, the consequences of which are being felt even now, he contended.

The argument in favour of proving Savarkar’s innocence

Inspired by Savarkar, Abhinav Bharat, Mumbai, was set up in 2001 and it claims to work for the socially and economically weaker section with a focus on bridging the digital divide.

Phadnis claimed that his research and media reports of those days suggested that four bullets were pumped into Gandhi and the difference between three and four shots was material as the pistol by which Godse shot Mahatma on January 30, 1948 had a seven bullet chamber and the remaining four unspent bullets were recovered by the police.

"There was no way the fourth shot could have come from this (Godse's) pistol. It had to be from the gun of a second assassin, no trace of whom survives in any record," he stated in the petition.

Phadnis has challenged the decision of the High Court which on June 6, 2016 had dismissed his PIL on two grounds, firstly, that the findings of fact have been recorded by the competent court and confirmed right up to the apex court and secondly, the Kapur Commission has submitted its report and made the observations in 1969 while the present petition has been filed after 46 years.

Besides approaching the apex court, Phadnis has also shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for expunging of "adverse unfounded" remarks made by the Kapur Commission against Savarkar, whose portrait was unveiled in 2003 in the Central Hall of Parliament.

"This quest has taken me to the doors of the Ministry of Law and Justice, the Bombay High Court and the Ministry of Home Affairs. Finally I have filed a Special Leave Petition (appeal against the High Court order) in the Supreme Court," Phadnis stated in a May 10 letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The debate regarding Vinayak Veer Savarkar’s involvement

There have been plenty of reports pointing towards Savarkar’s involvement in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. According to essay by AG Noorani  (an Indian lawyer, historian and author), in an article in The Frontline magazine,the then Union Home Minister Vallabhbhai Patel had written to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on February 27, 1948: “I have kept myself almost in daily touch with the progress of the investigation regarding Bapu’s assassination case.” It was a fanatical wing of the Hindu Mahasabha directly under Savarkar that “[hatched] the conspiracy and saw it through” ( Sardar Patel’s Correspondence, Volume 6, page 56).

Justice Jivan Lal Kapur, in 1966 when a Commission of Inquiry was constituted was asked to inquire into all the aspects of the conspiracy. Two aides of Savarkar deposed before him—Appa Ramchandra Kasar, his bodyguard, and Gajanan Vishnu Damle, his secretary.

Had they but testified in court, Savarkar would have been convicted 

Justice Kapur observed: “The statements of both these witnesses show that both Apte and Godse were frequent visitors of Savarkar at Bombay and at conferences and at every meeting they are shown to have been with Savarkar. …All this shows that people who were subsequently involved in the murder of Mahatma Gandhi were all congregating sometime or the other at Savarkar Sadan and sometimes had long interviews with Savarkar…. Apte and Godse visited him both before the bomb was thrown and also before the murder was committed and on each occasion they had long interviews.” Had they but testified in court, Savarkar would have been convicted – As mentioned in AG Noorani’s essay titled RSS and Gandhi’s murder.

There is no proof of Veer Savarkar’s role in the death of Gandhiji but Phadnis in his petition also alleged that the Kapur Commission had made certain adverse observations or findings against Veer Savarkar implying or imputing that he was involved in the murder of Mahatma Gandhi.

Savarkar was acquitted as an accused during the murder trial and hence these adverse findings should be expunged or removed, the PIL demanded.

 

with inputs from PTI