Thursday, July 28, 2011

Summary of Harrassment of Teesta Setalvad

Human Rights Activist and Secretary Citizens for Justice and Peace, Teesta Setalvad has been systematically harassed and sought to be intimidated by a vindictive state apparatus using its police machinery and a handful of witnesses, specifically a former employee of the legal rights group who was discontineud from working with CJP due to malpractices in January 2008.

This former employee has through similar complaints in a variety of fora --Police Commissioner, Ahmedabad, Crime Branch, Ahmedabad, SIT, Various Trial Courts hearing Eight cases being monitored by the Supreme Court and the Nanavati Shah Commission --since September 2010 made these baseless allegations. Huge media publicity was sought through this. The publication that heralded this was The Pioneer edited by an MP of the same party that is the ruling party in the state of Gujarat.

The Sardarpura Trial Court issued notice to Khan as why he should not be prosecuted for perjury.

Three Sets of Allegations

Pandharwada Mass Graves Case:
Setalvad being brought in first as witness, then an "absconding accused" on an FIR filed in January 2006 after the Gujarat High Court ordered the DNA testing of illegally dumped bodily remains of minorities massacred during the state sponsored violence of 2002. Until December 2010, when Rais Khan surrendered and through a dubiously recorded 164 statement made vile allegations against Setalvad, she was not implicated in this case. Her organisation assisted witnesses and victims made as accused for simply digging out their bodies. They had repeated made pleas to the administration that had not resulted in any action. The police is repeatedly being harassed with summons and threats. Rais Khan enjoys impunity and protection of the local police.
Sections applied are Sections 295 A, 297, 192, 193 and 197 of the Indian Penal Code.
She has obtained ABA from Godhra court and is following due course but this Court needs to know the systematic efforts simply because she is a co petitioner in this case.

Naroda Gaam Case

One of the other courts, ie the Naroda Gaam court however ordered a police investigation into the said allegations. SIT opposed Khan in the proceedings. The registry challenged this Order in the Gujarat HC but the HC on July 11, 2010 upheld the Trial Court order. Setalvad has sought ABA here too and yesterday during the proceedings in Ahmedabad the special public prosecutor made a statement in open court that we have enough material against Setalvad for a custodial interrogation. The vindictiveness of the State Government is out in the open. In this case, the sections sought to be applied are Sections 19, 194, 195, 196, 199 and 200 of the IPC.

An overwhelming number of witnesses have stood by their testimonies and deposed against the powerful men and women that allowed the ghastly violence to go unchecked. If a handful of witnesses possibly state the contrary that too on the basis of affidavits filed before this Hon Court in 2003, how can this negate the SIT investigation that has indepedently found them to be guilty prima facie?

The motive is not simply to target and physically harm Teesta Setalvad but to ensure that the convictions of over 350 accused backed by the ruling party in Gujarat does not take place.

Best Bakery Case

This is not the first time that these allegations are being made. After the transfer of the Best Bakery Case to Mumbai on 12.4.2004 the star witness Zahira Shaikh turned hostile for a second time and made similar allegations. A SC appointed registrar led Inquiry exonerated Setalvad and her organisation. An Income Tax Inquiry ordered by this Court has found ruling party MLA Madhu Srivastava guilty of paying out Rs 18 lakhs to undisclosed persons. This is the amount that is likely to have been paid to Ms Shaikh for inducing her to make these vile allegations against a human rights activist.
Now after the re trial took place and judgement was delivered in February 2006, one of the other witnesses(Yasmeen Shaikh) has in April 2010 filed an affidavit stating that she was tutored by Setalvad. The Trial Court had examined in detail these allegations and exonerated Setalvad and the legal rights group. Though this has no legal basis, the effort is to discredit, malign, and intimdiate a human rights group.

The significance of bringing this up here is because at the end of the day it is this case that is possibly pointing at
criminal acts of powerful men and women in power who have manipulated and influenced the police administration to not just allow innocent lives to be taken in 2002 after the ghastly train burning incident at Godhra but worse: used their Constitutionally given power to subvert the criminal justice system and destroy evidence, including inducing victims, witnesses and others to turn hostile. The personal freedom and liberty of human rights activists as also the integrity of the trial process is at stake.


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