Ahmedabad: A sessions court here on Thursday rejected activist Teesta Setalvad’s application seeking discharge in a case related to the alleged fabrication of evidence related to the 2002 Gujarat riots.
While rejecting the plea, additional sessions judge A.R Patel also asked the prosecution and defense to “open the case” (start trial proceedings) from July 24.
The Gujarat government had opposed Setalvad’s application, arguing that she abused the trust of riot victims and implicated innocent persons.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court granted bail to her in the same case after the Gujarat High Court denied her relief.
Setalvad and two others former state Director General of Police R.B Sreekumar and former Indian Police Service officer Sanjiv Bhatt were arrested by the city crime branch in June 2022 on charges of forgery and fabricating false evidence with the intent to implicate Gujarat government functionaries in the 2002 riots cases.
Judge A.R Patel had earlier rejected Sreekumar’s discharge plea. Bhatt has not sought similar relief yet.
In its written reply opposing Setalvad’s discharge plea, the state government had alleged that she drafted affidavits in the names of riot victims to implicate innocent persons including then chief minister Narendra Modi, senior officers, and state ministers.
The state government relied on the statements of witnesses Rais Khan Pathan who once worked at Setalvad’s NGO Citizen for Peace, Narendra Brahmbhatt who had claimed that late Congress leader Ahmed Patel had paid the activist Rs 30 lakh, and riots victim Qutubuddin Ansari.
The government also highlighted `contradictions’ in the affidavits of riots victims prepared by Setalvad and their own statements recorded before the courts.
“There is sufficient evidence and reasons to file a chargesheet against the accused,” the government affidavit said.
Rejecting the allegation that evidence was fabricated to frame innocent people, Setalvad’s lawyer had submitted that the affidavits which are alleged to be false had been signed by the witnesses and submitted before various courts.
These affidavits, therefore, can not be considered as `fabricated evidence’, the defense said.
Even testimonies of witnesses were recorded by the courts based on the signed affidavits, it pointed out.
The case against Setalvad and others was registered following a judgment by the Supreme Court on June 24, 2022, on a petition of Zakia Jafri who had alleged the existence of a larger conspiracy behind the 2002 post-Godhra communal riots.
Zakia Jafri is the wife of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri who was among those killed during the riots.
The Supreme Court judgment of June 2022 upheld the clean chit given to (now prime minister) Narendra Modi and other state functionaries and observed that some people kept “the pot boiling” of the case “for ulterior design” and “all those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with the law.