Order in Teesta Setalvad and RB Sreekumar’s bail applications likely to be passed on July 28

Court said it needed time to examine all documents submitted

Bail Order
Image Courtesy: newsd.in

On July 26, Additional Principal Judge, DD Thakkar of the City Civil court postponed the order in the matter of bail for journalist, educationist and human rights defender Teesta Setalvad to July 28. The order in the bail application of former Gujarat Director General of Police (DGP) RB Sreekumar is also likely to be passed on July 28. The court said that as there were many documents to examine, the order will be passed on Thursday.

The shocking arrest

On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court dismissed a Special Leave Petition (PIL) moved by Zakia Jafri seeking a proper investigation into the wider conspiracy behind the 2002 Gujarat carnage.

The petition had been moved by Zakia Jafri, the widow of slain Congress Member of Parliament (MP) Ehsan Jafri, who had been killed during the communal violence in Gulberg Society. Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) secretary Teesta Setalvad was the second petitioner in the case that aimed to pin the responsibility of allowing the violence to continue unabated on the people in power in Gujarat at the time.

But deeming this to be a malicious prosecution, the court had observed in its judgment, “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.

The very next day on June 25, 2022, a team of the Gujarat Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) barged into Teesta Setalvad’s Mumbai home and detained her.

The above extract was quoted in a complaint filed on behalf of the State, and today, Teesta Setalvad, a fearless human rights defender stands accused of criminal conspiracy, forgery and giving or fabricating false evidence among other IPC sections. Two former police officers, who were whistle-blowers in the case, RB Sreekumar and Sanjiv Bhatt have also been named as her co-conspirators in the FIR. While Bhatt is already in jail under trumped-up charges in a custodial death case, Sreekumar was arrested shortly after Setalvad was picked up.

Abuse of power during detention

Setalvad says she was roughed up as she was picked up from her Mumbai home and taken to the Santacruz police station. At about 5:30 P.M, just before being whisked away to Ahmedabad, Setalvad filed a hand written complaint with the Santacruz Police Station saying Police Inspector JH Patel of the ATS Ahmedabad and a lady officer in civil clothes came into her bedroom and assaulted her when she demanded to speak to her lawyer. Setalvad says that she was not shown the First Information Report (FIR) or a warrant till her lawyer arrived.

In her complaint, Setalvad has also stated that the assault left her with a bruise on her left hand, and that she feared for her life.

In Ahmedabad, Setalvad was formally arrested, and taken for a mandatory medical test on Sunday June 26.

Proceedings during the July 18 hearing

Setalvad and RB Sreekumar’s lawyers tore into the Crime Branch’s affidavit and showcased how none of the ‘offences’ alleged in the pertinent matter are maintainable as none of the courts in which the said matter were being heard had made any complaint whatsoever.

They further argued that instead of substantiating their case with adequate evidence, the State has gone into a totally irrelevant ‘broader conspiracy’ which has no immediate relevance to this case. Hence, while any maintainable evidence is non-existent, which would be established during the trial, not granting bail in this matter would be a travesty of justice.

After this the State represented by the Public Prosecutor made their submissions on July 20 and 26. It is also noteworthy that during this entire ordeal, the State also made a series of fresh and bizarre allegations against Setalvad claiming she took money from the now deceased Congress leader Ahmed Patel to defame the Gujarat government in 2002.

Proceedings on July 26, 2022

During the proceedings today, the Public Prosecutor continued to harp on Setalvad’s “conduct”. The PP’s argument was that given this “conduct”, enlarging Setalvad on bail would result in interference in the investigation and efforts to influence the witnesses! The most outlandish submission of all, was the multiple litigations she has moved, even in cases where she was not even a party. The PP submitted that these multiple litigations and appeals were designed by her to escape the consequences of the various investigations that she was under. He cited an instance of Setalvad challenging the order of the magistrate court for investigation under sec 153 A. This petition was dismissed by the High Court. The PP also continued to make submissions about the “larger conspiracy”, where he attributed Setalvad’s actions to her desire to become a Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament – another allegation, devoid of any basis in reality.

Setalvad’s lawyer, Advocate Somnath Vats, once again exposed the lack of substance in the prosecution submissions, and expounded how the IPC sections 190-19 and 211, that deal with fabricating evidence and presenting false evidence during the pendency of a case, that could lead to serious harm to the parties involved in the case. His submission was that the Zakia Jafri petition was complete with the Supreme Court upholding the closure of the case by the SIT; and there was no active case in which Teesta Setalvad et al could have presented false and fabricated evidence. The FIR of the impugned case was a totally separate one, and had nothing to do with the Zakia Jafri petition. Hence there was no question of using Sec 195 in this matter.

The defence submitted that all this while, Setalvad has been engaged in various cases. Yet, nowhere has the State ever stated that she had interfered with any investigation! Taking legal recourse cannot be portrayed as something that can derail investigation.

On the subject of intimidating the Investigating Officer (IO), Setalvad’s team submitted that if any IO feels that the accused is tampering evidence or interfering with the investigation or influencing/threatening/intimidating witnesses while on bail, the IO has adequate powers backed by legal provisions to file a complaint against such accused persons.

Advocate Somnath also tore into the “larger conspiracy” saying that the prosecution has not established any prima facie case. Even when the PP alleges ulterior motives to destabilize the government, there is no evidence that has been presented except the undisclosed mysterious statements of three un-named (confidential) witnesses, to which the defence is not yet privy.

The order is now expected to be delivered on July 28.


Arguments to continue in Teesta Setalvad’s bail application on July 20

Free Teesta Setalvad: Peers and fellow activists offer a testament to her tenacity

Human Rights defenders stand with Teesta Setalvad

Indian intelligentsia bats for Teesta Setalvad

Free Teesta Setalvad: A week in the life of a brave human rights defender



Related Articles