18 Sep 2023 12:34 PM GMT
The Gujarat High Court today once again adjourned the hearing in social activist Teesta Setalvad’s plea to quash the case lodged against her by Gujarat Police accusing her of fabricating documents so as to implicate high government functionaries including the then CM Narendra Modi in relation to the 2002 Gujarat riots. Observing that the matter wouldn’t require a lengthy hearing,...
The Gujarat High Court today once again adjourned the hearing in social activist Teesta Setalvad’s plea to quash the case lodged against her by Gujarat Police accusing her of fabricating documents so as to implicate high government functionaries including the then CM Narendra Modi in relation to the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Observing that the matter wouldn’t require a lengthy hearing, the bench of Justice Sandeep N. Bhatt has now posted the matter on October 11.
Responding to the concern raised by Teesta’s counsel that the matter has not been able to come up for a hearing due to the overburdened board, Justice Bhatt said:
“I am not able to hear all the matters that are listed in my board, even year 2016 matters are listed for admission, your matter is of 2023. I am ready to take up the matter today if it is called out, otherwise, we will try to hear it next time when it is listed.”
Further, the bench also remarked that it feels that petitions filed under Section 482 CrPC do not require a hearing for more than half an hour and that in such matters, only a prima facie case is to be seen.
It may be noted that Setalvad moved to the High Court soon after a city sessions court in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad dismissed her discharge application in relation to the case. On August 3, Justice Samir J. Dave recused from hearing her plea
Earlier on July 19, the Apex Court granted regular bail to her in the case.
A bench comprising Justices BR Gavai, AS Bopanna and Dipankar Datta quashed the Gujarat High Court's order which denied her regular bail after opining that the High Court's observations were "perverse" and "contradictory".
Case against Setalvad
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’.