A group of former judges, bureaucrats and retired officials of the armed forces on Tuesday said that the remarks made by a section of the civil society criticising the Supreme Court’s recent observations against activist Teesta Setalvad was “politically motivated”, PTI reported.
In a public statement, they also said that a case filed against Setalvad in Gujarat soon after the court made its observations was justified.
Setalvad was arrested on June 26 for allegedly committing forgery and fabricating evidence in a case related to the 2002 Gujarat riots. Former Gujarat Director General of Police RB Sreekumar was later arrested on the same charges.
They were arrested by the Gujarat Police’s Anti-Terrorism Squad two days after the Supreme Courtdismissed a plea filed by Setalvad and Zakia Jafri, the wife of former Congress MP Ehsaan Jafri, who was killed in the riots.
Setalvad and Jafri had challenged the report of a Special Investigation Team that had cleared Narendra Modi in the case. Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat during the riots. The court had said that the petition had been filed “to keep the pot boiling for ulterior design”.
The Gujarat Police’s FIR cited a portion of the Supreme Court judgement that said that “all those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law”.
It also cited verbatim a number of arguments that the Special Investigation Team made before the Supreme Court.
Several international organisations of human rights have criticised the Gujarat Police’s action and called for the release of Setalvad and Sreekumar. On June 27, a group of 2,231 teachers, journalists, social activists and professionals from various sectors had alleged that the authorities were using the Supreme Court judgement to “falsely and vindictively prosecute” those who had struggled for justice.
On June 29, a group of 304 lawyers, judges and eminent citizens wrote to Chief Justice NV Ramana, demanding that the Supreme Court should clarify that its verdict was not intended to have adverse consequences on the petitioners including Setalvad.
However, on Tuesday, 190 signatories, including retired judges, former bureaucrats and ex-armed released a statement, saying that the case against Setalvad and others is in accordance with the law, PTI reported.
“The Supreme Court acted in a matter which was within its jurisdiction and any action for modification of its proceedings must take form of a regular motion and even as this section of civil society pretends that citizens are totally disturbed and dismayed with the court’s order,” the statement noted.
The group said that the judiciary was being put under pressure after its remarks on Setalvad.
“A politically motivated section of civil society has made attempts to cast aspersions on the integrity of the judiciary at large and in this case, this section has attempted to pressure the judiciary to expunge remarks which are unfavourable to Setalvad and the two guilty ex-IPS officers who have fabricated evidence,” it added.
The signatories include former High Court judges RS Rathore, SN Dhingra and MC Garg, former Indian Police Services officers Sanjeev Tripathi, Sudhir Kumar, BS Bassi and Karnal Singh, former Indian Administrative Services officers G Prasanna Kumar and Prema Chandra, and Lt Gen (retired) VK Chaturvedi.
They said that interference in functioning of the judiciary is “not acceptable”, PTI reported. They also urged the Supreme Court to not expunge its remarks or be intimidated by the “institutional disruptors”.
“Rather, the court should allow the law to take its own course and uphold it majesty and dignity by ensuring that the public confidence in the judicial system stays intact,” they said.
They said the accused persons can always resort to judicial remedies, PTI reported.
“There is no prejudice to anyone in view of the robust judicial system in the country,” the group said. “Neither Teesta Setalvad nor RB Sreekumar nor Sanjiv Bhatt can selectively use court proceedings against others and not face the process of law themselves.”
The Special Investigation Team was constituted by the Supreme Court on Setalvad’s request, the signatories noted
“It is this SIT which has found Setalvad and her accomplices involved in various crimes,” they added. “The Supreme Court has, therefore, rightly observed in its judgment what it observed. There must be accountability for malicious prosecution and fabrication of evidence.”