Social activist, Teesta Seetalvad’s Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) withdrew its six-year old SLP from the Supreme Court on Wednesday, December 6, to challenge orders passed by a trial court in Gujarat in December 2010 without hearing her, in connection with a complaint by her former employee, Rais Khan Pathan.
The CJP’s special leave petition, filed against the Gujarat High Court’s judgment dated July 11, 2011, was disposed of by the bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Mohan M.Shantanagoudar, after Setalvad’s counsel, Kapil Sibal, decided not to press the SLP, in view of the liberty granted to challenge the order in the lower court. Rais Khan Pathan, a previous employee of CJP had filed multiple complaints against Setalvad, who had to take anticipatory bail several times to avoid incarceration. The anticipatory bail granted by the Ahmedabad Sessions Court has been challenged by the state of Gujarat in the High Court.Pathan had alleged that Setalvad fabricated the affidavits of the 2002 Gujarat riot victims. Pathan was the field coordinator of the CJP in Ahmedabad when it was taking up the cases of the riot survivors to fight before the Nanavati Commission and the courts, before he was removed in 2008 for “misappropriation of funds and unethical behaviour”. Setalvad had denied the allegations against her.
The present case stems from the section 311 application filed by him in the Naroda Gaam Trial (Case No. 203 of 2009). The High Court had confirmed the Ahmedabad Metropolitan Magistrate’s order sending the case for police investigation. Pathan’s application sought the Magistrate’s permission to examine him as a prosecution witness.
During the hearing before the Supreme Court on December 6, it was pointed out by the state’s counsel, that Setalvad had no locus in the case, because she was not a party before the lower court in this case. Nor was she issued any notice. The CJP had come to the Supreme Court directly, challenging all the orders issued by the Magistrate, the Sessions Court and the High Court.
Since the lower court was bound by the High Court’s order, it was initially thought by her counsel that approaching the Supreme Court directly would be appropriate.
During the proceedings before the Supreme Court on December 6, however, it was felt that filing an application challenging the order to initiate investigation, before the appropriate court, would be a better remedy. With the Supreme Court granting the CJP liberty for the purpose, Sibal decided to withdraw the SLP. If notice is issued to the CJP in this case, Setalvad will have the option to challenge it before the lower court.
The disposal of the case by the Supreme Court would mean that the stay granted earlier on the investigation stands vacated. If the police files an FIR, after the investigation, she will have the option to challenge it. Meanwhile, she will continue to have the protection of the anticipatory bail, granted to her in this case.