Thursday, May 26, 2011

Note on proceedings in Gujarat HC on May 25 2011

On May 25, 2011 the hearing in Teesta Setalvad’s petition oraying for the quashing of the FIR in the Pandharwada Mass Gaves Case (please refer to the Backgrounder and Petition attached), arguments went on for over two and a half hours. Senior advocate Ms Kamini jaiswal from the Supreme Court made a strong and cogent plea for quashing of the FIR and summons dated May 9, 2011. As the petition attached explains clearly Setalvad has been arraigned as an ‘absconding accused’, belatedly and in a malafide act, only on April 6, 2011, i.e. five years after the FIR against victim survivors of the Pandharwada mass graves case was filed and a former employee Rais Khan of the CJP was also made an accused. Rais Khan since disassociated with the organization has been won over by powerful state functionaries and accused in the state of Gujarat.

Before April 6, 2011 when the chargesheet was belatedly filed, Setalvad had been summoned as a witness under section 160 CRPC (on March 25 2011). She had immediately replied to the summons requesting the police to record her statement at her residence which is under the provisions of the law. Thereafter an illegal and malafide summons was issued that too after the charge sheet was filed. Once a chargesheet is filed the competent authority to issue any summons remains a Court of Law not the police. Even before March 25, 2011, Setalvad was in no way absconding as she had moved for ABA first in December 2010 in Mumbai and thereafter in Godhra. She received anticipatory bail on February 15, 2011 and therefore in no way could be called an absconding accused. Counsel Ms Jaiswal arugued that there had been in no way any change in circumstance between January, March and April 2011 for Setalvad to have suddenly made an ‘absconding accused’ after first being summoned as witness except that the Investigating Officer (Joshi) had suddenly been transferred (it is now an IO Ninama).

The impunity that Rais Khan a co-accused in this cas enjoys within the state of Gujarat is appreciable in the fact of the interviews given by him on December 30 and 31, 2010 gleefully published in the Times of India, Ahmedabad wherein he states that he would ensure Setalvad’s arrest. On January 25, 2011 Setalvad made a detailed representation to the state Director General of Police Chittaranjan Singh and DIG Vadodara Range, JK Bhatt making herself and her organization available for any lawfully conducted investigation. She had also provided copies of the CD an transcript of the original digging episode wherein Rahul Singh of Sahara Samay (then) had relayed the episode to the nation. Rahul Singh was originally feared to be also implicated but he has been kept out so far by the police though in late 2010 they had arrived in Bhopal with a summons for him.
The strategy of the Gujarat police appears to be to intimidate and bully setalvad into responding to an illegal and malafide summons and thereafter applying the same arbitrary principles maybe detain her and deny her freedom and liberty in complete transgression of the law. On May 27, 2011 orders are expected from the Gujarat High Court.


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