Ahmedabad Court Rejects Teesta Setalvad’s Discharge Application In Case For Alleged Fabrication Of Evidence In Relation To Gujarat Riots
One day after activist Teesta Setalvad’s bail plea was allowed by the Supreme Court, a city sessions court in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad dismissed her discharge application in relation to the allegation of fabrication of evidence to implicate high government functionaries in the 2002 Gujarat riots cases. Additional Principal Judge AR Patel of the City Civil and Sessions Court,...
One day after activist Teesta Setalvad’s bail plea was allowed by the Supreme Court, a city sessions court in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad dismissed her discharge application in relation to the allegation of fabrication of evidence to implicate high government functionaries in the 2002 Gujarat riots cases.
Additional Principal Judge AR Patel of the City Civil and Sessions Court, Ahmedabad, has rejected the application filed by Setalvad seeking to be discharged on the ground that a prima facie case could be made out.
The activist, who moved the plea to be discharged in the criminal case lodged against her by the Gujarat police, has maintained her innocence in the face of charges brought against her by the State of Gujarat of fabricating evidence and tutoring witnesses to falsely implicate government functionaries. In her discharge application, she has, inter alia, argued that no grounds existed that connected her with the offences she has been accused of committing:
“No grounds exist against the accused even prima facie to connect her to the alleged offences much less to proceed further or to face rigors of trial as there is nothing to connect with the alleged substantive offences for which charge sheet has been filed. The existence of such records and documents are sine qua non before charges can be framed. All the material marshalled against the accused should be prima facie sufficient to answer whether the accused has committed any offence and [their ingredients satisfied].”
However, this contention has not found favour with the judge who ruled against Setalvad, directing her to submit to a trial to determine her culpability. The court held that the material on record prima facie indicated that a case can be sustained. The judge also disagreed with Setalvad’s contention that the evidence did not connect her to the alleged offences, even going so far as to make a specific observation regarding the nexus between the accused and the crime she allegedly committed, according to sources.
Setalvad was arrested along with former civil servants RB Sreekumar and Sanjiv Bhatt. Earlier, in June, a local court rejected the former’s discharge application on the ground that the charges against him could not be determined at this stage. Sanjiv Bhatt has not yet filed a discharge application, sources reveal.
Setalvad’s discharge application was filed through Advocate SM Vatsa, while Special Public Prosecutor Amit M Patel appeared for the State of Gujarat.
Civil rights activist and secretary of NGO ‘Citizens for Justice and Peace’ Teesta Setalvad is under the scanner for allegedly fabricating evidence and instituting false proceedings in relation to the Gujarat riots conspiracy case. A first information report (FIR) was lodged against Setalvad in 2022, one day after the apex court dismissed a petition filed by Zakia Ehsan Jafri alleging a larger conspiracy during the 2002 Gujarat riots. In this plea, Setalvad along with Zakia Ehsan Jafri had challenged the closure report filed by a special investigation team (SIT) discarding the allegations of a larger conspiracy by high state functionaries including the then-chief minister Narendra Modi and 63 others in the communal violence that broke out in the western state of Gujarat in February 2002.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar observed that the petition was filed with ‘ulterior motives’ to ‘keep the pot boiling’. The top court further said that action should be taken against those who abused the process of law. In its order, the court also observed that a ‘coalesced effort’ of disgruntled officials from Gujarat and others was to make false sensational revelations, which the Gujarat SIT ‘exposed’. The bench remarked:
“Intriguingly, the present proceedings have been pursued for the last 16 years… to keep the pot boiling, obviously, for ulterior design. As a matter of fact, all those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law.”
Pursuant to these observations, an FIR was registered against retired state DGP RB Sreekumar, Setalvad, and former IPS Officer Sanjiv Bhatt charging them with criminal conspiracy, forgery, and other offences under the Indian Penal Code. The FIR in question quoted extensively from the Supreme Court's order. On June 25, the Gujarat Police's Anti-Terrorism Squad took Setalvad into custody from her residence in Mumbai. Her bail plea was rejected by a lower court in Ahmedabad on July 30, which was challenged before the Gujarat High Court. When the matter travelled in appeal to the Supreme Court, a bench headed by Chief Justice UU Lalit granted Setalvad interim bail in September of last year, noting that she had been in custody for two months and the investigative machinery had the advantage of custodial interrogation for a period of seven days.
On July 1, a single-judge bench of the Gujarat High Court rejected her regular bail plea. This order was stayed by a bench headed by Supreme Court judge BR Gavai in a special sitting on the same day, and later quashed. Not only this, a bench comprising Justices BR Gavai, AS Bopanna and Dipankar Datta also opined that the Gujarat High Court’s decision of denying Setalvad regular bail was ‘perverse’ and ‘contradictory’.
Discharge application in State of Gujarat v. Teesta Atul Setalvad & Ors. | Sessions Case No. 159 of 2023