The Students’ Islamic Organisation of India (SIO) on Sunday said the arrest of activist Teesta Setalvad and a former IPS officer by the Gujarat Police will have a “chilling effect” on fundamental freedoms.
Referring to the Supreme Court’s recent order upholding the clean chit given by the SIT to the then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in the 2002 communal riots case, the SIO said the use of the apex court’s direction to take action against the so-called fabricated cases is going to have a chilling effect on every Indian’s ability to exercise their fundamental freedoms, and it highlights the institutional breakdown of the pillars of our democracy.
“The government’s aim of creating an Opposition-less system is not only limited to political parties but extends to silencing all human rights defenders. This is meant to set in motion a chain of actions enabling a Fascist authoritarian regime, with activists, lawyers, students, farmers and youths facing the brunt of the police state. In the process, the state is trying to rewrite historical truths and wiping our collective memory,” the SIO said in a release.
The Ahmedabad crime branch registered an FIR against Setalvad, and former IPS officers RB Sreekumar, and Sanjiv Bhatt on Saturday, a day after the Supreme Supreme Court dismissed a petition challenging the clean chit given by the SIT to Narendra Modi and others in 2002 post-Godhra riots cases.
The First Information Report, based on a complaint filed by an Ahmedabad crime branch official, also named former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, who is already in jail in another case.
Setalvad, who was picked up from her Mumbai residence, claimed her arrest was illegal and apprehended a threat to her life. Bhatt is sentenced to life imprisonment in a custodial death case, and in another case, he is accused of planting contraband to frame a lawyer in a false case.
“She has been taken by the Gujarat Anti Terrorist Squad….we were not informed in advance about the case. They barged into the house and assaulted her before taking her with them,” alleged her lawyer Vijay Hiremath.
Setalvad, Bhatt and Sreekumar “conspired to abuse the process of law by fabricating false evidence to make several persons to be convicted in an offence that is punishable with capital punishment,” said the complaint filed by inspector D B Barad of Ahmedabad crime branch.
They instituted “false and malicious criminal proceedings against innocent people with intention to cause injury to several persons, and prepared false records and dishonestly used those records as genuine with the intention to cause damage and injury to many persons,” as per the complaint.
The complaint drew on various submissions made before the Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed by the Supreme Court to investigate the 2002 Gujarat riots cases and submissions made by the accused before the Justice Nanavati-Shah Commission of Inquiry.
The FIR was registered earlier in the day under sections 468, 471 (forgery), 194 (giving or fabricating false evidence with intent to procure conviction of capital offence), 211 (institute criminal proceedings to cause injury), 218 (public servant framing incorrect record or writing with intent to save person from punishment or property from forfeiture), and 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.
“Setalvad conjured, concocted, forged, fabricated facts and documents and/or evidence, including fabrication of documents by persons who were protective witnesses of the complainant (Zakia Jafri),” as per the complaint.
Setalvad and her NGO were co-petitioners with Zakia Jafri in the petition filed against then chief minister Narendra Modi and others in the Supreme Court.
The complaint also accused Setalvad of influencing and tutoring witnesses and making them depose on pre-typed affidavits. Even Zakia Jafri was tutored by Setalvad, as was clear from her statement before the Nanavati Commission on August 22, 2003, it said.
IPS officers Bhatt and Sreekumar — who was additional DGP of Armed Unit during the 2002 Godhra riot, and intelligence DGP soon after — had made several depositions before the Nanavati Commission of Inquiry that were against the Gujarat government, the complaint said. Bhatt allegedly forged various documents mailed to the SIT and also falsely claimed he attended a late night meeting on February 27, 2002, called by the then chief minister (Modi) at his residence, it said.
Sreekumar’s nine affidavits before the Nanavati-Shah Commission were the source of many of the allegations in Zakia Jafri’s petition, it claimed. Jafri’s husband and former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri was killed during the 2002 riots.
Meanwhile, a police officer in Mumbai said Setalvad handed a written complaint to Santacruz police station (when she was taken there), and “they are processing it.” Setalvad’s complaint alleged that Gujarat police “barged into” her compound, did not show her a copy of the FIR or warrant against her, and there was a “big bruise” on her left hand. “I fear seriously for my life,” her complaint added. (PTI)