The doctrine of 'command responsibility' holds that that the person holding command is responsible for the actions of his subordinates, including acts of omission.
The allegation against Narendra Modi is that he either himself abetted, or at the very least failed to prevent, heinous acts of violence in the aftermath of the Godhra atrocity.
In Indian law, Modi would face criminal charges if admissible evidence substantiates the allegation.
A separate question- one relating to the chances of success of court cases filed against Modi, on Human Rights grounds, in a foreign jurisdiction or one founded upon a claim for damages under the U.S Alien Torts Claims Acts- has to do with 'command responsibility'.
This begs the question as to whether Modi had inherited a machinery of State that was fit for purpose and, as such, amenable to command.
What are we to say of a State where, in 1992, the police were in the pockets of a gangster (who also financed the Congress party) who assasinates a senior Congress M.P who was about to present damaging information about him to the Central Home Minister? The same gangster, together with a former Congress Minister of Fisheries, then arranges a terror attack on Surat in response to the Babri Masjid demolition before fleeing to Pakistan.
Modi, over the years, may well have eliminated at least the criminal/terrorist/police nexus. But, in a democratic set up, how much further can he go to break the nexus between land sharks and corrupt policemen? What of illicit liqor, the flesh trade, drugs and the various other ills associated with rising material prosperity?
As for religious and caste prejudices- can his mantra 'all religions are equal paths to God' really prevail?
Modi was brought into Gujerati politics because he was neither a Patel nor a Kshatriya. He was supposed to confine himself to speech making and, perhaps, building bridges to adivasis and marginalized farmers. His response to the Kutch earthquake showed the calibre of the man. But Godhra should have cut him off at the legs. Riots are the means used by the middle level party bosses to render the guy at the top impotent. It's all about countervailing power. The middle level guys are paid off by the criminals who then themselves can rise to become political figures.
Modi essentially took responsibility for the post Godhra riots, utterly obscene though they were, thus rising above his rivals and concentrating power in his hands. With the courage of desperation he then brokered a deal with the farmers whereby they gave up free electricity in return for an assured power supply at night at a lower rate. This was only one of many path-breaking initiatives that he took. Some see Modi's manic energy, post-Godhra, as a psychological defence against the horrors of the riots. What is unquestionable is that Modi changed how Government and Society interacted.
His attitude towards Panchayat Raj- where he encouraged unanimous voting in elections- indicate his supicion of the political instrumenalization of disorder that is the other side of the coin of party politics.
Modi refers again and again to the fact that he wasn't involved in student politics and held no elected office until parachuted in by the BJP high command.
Both Godhra and its aftermath were the inevitable result of a corrupt political process in which not just criminals but also terrorists could be used to appeal to 'vote-banks'. The hilarious story of Ram Vilas Paswan taking along an Osama bin Laden look alike to gather Muslim votes shows how cynical our politicians are.
In this context, Modi's moral as well as 'command responsibility' for the post-Godhra riots pales into insignificance when compared to the hereditary masters of the Nation's destiny.
But, what's next for Modi? Sooner or later the very prosperity he has helped create will fuel a demand for change. Patels and other forward sections have attractive candidates of their own. A lot of money is being made in Gujarat. 'Rent seeking' has enormous scope for expansion. Few public officials and politicians like seeing money go straight to the poor through Garib Kalyan Melas.
And, without Modi, the necessity for communal riots will once again make itself felt. After all, how else are elections to be won?