Police should not become arm of the executive, says Teesta Setalvad after release from jail
The activist walked out of an Ahmedabad jail on interim bail from the Supreme Court. She had been in custody for over two months.
The police should not become an arm of the executive and should apply laws impartially, activist Teesta Setalvad told NDTV in an interview on Monday.
Setalvad was released from the Sabarmati Central Jail in Ahmedabad on Saturday after the Supreme Court granted her interim bail. The Gujarat Police’s Anti-Terrorism Squad has accused her of forgery and fabrication of evidence in a case related to the 2002 Gujarat riots.
The activist had been in custody for over two months.
On Monday, Setalvad told NDTV that the police should apply laws in an honest and autonomous manner.
“Look what happened to [Alt News co-founder Mohammed] Zubair – so many examples of this crackdown and the police getting away without following due process...It can happen to anybody.”
Zubair is facing seven criminal cases, including six in Uttar Pradesh and one in Delhi. The police’s allegations against him pertain to satirical comments about television news anchors, allegedly hurting religious sentiments of the Hindu community and posting alleged inflammatory content about deities.
The journalist was arrested on June 27. He walked out of Tihar Jail on July 20 after the Supreme Court granted him interim bail.
On the manner of her arrest, Setalvad told NDTV that she had expected due process and that a notice would be issued before taking her into custody. The activist also said that she was questioned in police custody on only one occasion in the six days following her arrest.
“Right from that Sunday evening [of the arrest] to next Saturday, when I was sent to judicial custody, I was not called for questioning except once,” she said. “The rest of the time I was sitting around. No explanation was given.”
Setalvad told the channel that bail hearings needed to be taken more seriously. “Personal freedom is important,” she said. “Incarceration cannot be the norm.”
The activist, in her petition before the Supreme Court, had objected to a long gap between the date of hearings in the Gujarat High Court. It had issued notice on Setalvad’s bail plea on August 2 but listed the matter for hearing on September 19.
Case against Setalvad
The police had arrested Setalvad two days after the Supreme Court had dismissed allegations of a “larger conspiracy” levelled by Zakia Jafri, wife of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior Gujarat officials in the 2002 Gujarat riots case.
The Supreme Court judgment had also read a statement by the Gujarat government in its statement where Setalvad was accused of exploiting Zakia Jafri’s emotions.
The Gujarat Police alleged that Setalvad “used the guise of collecting money in the name of riot victims” and used a Foreign Contribution Regulation Act licence to obtain funding from various international non-government organisations, to push forward her agenda against the Gujarat government.
The activist is the founder of Citizens for Justice and Peace, an organisation that helps riot victims get justice.