The Gujarat government on Thursday accused social activist Teesta Setalvad of orchestrating a larger conspiracy to defame the state for about 20 years, PTI reported. Setalvad’s non government organisation, Sabrang, had been dealing with cases related to the 2002 riots in Gujarat.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta made the statement before the Supreme Court during the hearing on a petition filed by Zakia Jafri, the wife of Congress leader Ehsan Jafri, in the 2002 Gujarat riots case.
Jafri has challenged a Special Investigation Team’s clean chit to 64 people, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was the chief minister of Gujarat in 2002, in the 2002 Gujarat riots case. The petitioner’s husband was among the 69 people who were killed when a mob went on a rampage in Ahmedabad’s Gulberg society on February 28, 2002, pelting stones and setting fire to homes.
Jafri’s counsel had argued that her contention was that there was “a larger conspiracy” involving bureaucratic inaction, police complicity and hate speech that led to the violence.
During Thursday’s hearing, Mehta told the bench of Justices Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and CT Ravikumar that he was “at pains” to point out that Setalvad was “tutoring witnesses, was preparing pre-typed computerised statements and sending them”.
Mehta said he had been complaining from the beginning that the Special Investigation Team did not did not prosecute the activist for “fabricating false evidence”.
“I have nothing against petitioner number one [Zakia Jafri], she is wounded, and she has lost her near and dear ones,” he said. “I can have nothing to say against her. But, and I am choosing my words very carefully, there has to be a limit of exploiting the miseries of a widow.”
Mehta also referred to a Gujarat High Court order passed on a separate matter dealing with allegations of misappropriation of funds received by the Setalvad’s NGO for the 2002 riot victims.
Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Special Investigation Team, said that the case should be brought to an end as there was no nothing to substantiate the allegations of larger conspiracy during the riots. He said that the team conducted a thorough investigation on Zakia Jafri’s complaint.
He said that allowing Jafri’s plea will lead to great injustices as there is no error in the order passed by the courts.
“I submit it is only being driven by petitioner number two [Setalvad],” the advocate submitted. “It is not being driven by this lady and it is evident from her statement that she said whatever petitioner two had told her.”
He said that while no person accused of a crime should go scot-free, the accused person also has a right to fair trial.
The matter will now be heard on December 7.
In earlier hearings, Jafri has told the court that the investigation team did not record the statement of Lieutenant General Zameer Uddin Shah, who had led the armed forces during the riot. Shah had claimed this in his memoir.
Jafri alleged that the team was involved with some of the accused in the riots case. She also alleged that the team had ignored crucial evidence and filed a closure report without conducting a proper investigation. She has demanded an inquiry against the Special Investigation Team.
The team had submitted its closure report on February 8, 2012, saying there was no prosecutable evidence against accused persons, including Modi, in the riots cases.
In 2013, when Jafri had filed a petition opposing the closure report, the magistrate, who had received the report, upheld it and dismissed her petition.
She had then moved the Gujarat High Court. In 2017, the High Court upheld the magistrate’s decision and dismissed her plea.
Jafri then moved the Supreme Court that said it would examine the closure report.