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-Report by Nistha Tiwari

Teesta Setalvad, a Social Activist was arrested on 25th June 2022 for forgery, criminal conspiracy, and placing false evidence in court in the 2002 Gujarat riots case by Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad. The arrest took place after the Supreme court dismissed a plea of Zakia Jafri challenging SIT’s clean chit to the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi along with 63 other persons. Former police officers Sanjeev Bhatt and R.B. Sreekumar were also booked for the
offence along with Teesta Setalvad.

Setalvad was the secretary of NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace and was well known for her work in supporting victims of the 2002 riots due to which around 1000 people were killed. Setalvad and her NGO were co-petitioners in the case named Zakia Ehsan Jafri and another v. State of Gujarat and another, along with Zakia Jafri. In this case,
Zakia Jafri’s husband, former congress MP Ehsan Jafri was killed in the Gulberg Society after a coach of Sabarmati Express was burnt due to which about 59 people were killed.

Gulberg society is situated in the Charmanpura area in south Ahmedabad. The day when the coach of Sabarmati Express was burnt, riots broke out in Gujarat and 59 Hindu pilgrims who were returning from Ayodhya, were killed.
The area was affected by violence due to the riots and some people of the Muslim community took shelter at Ehsan Jafri’s home. Ehsan Jafri was dragged by the mob from his house and was brutally killed along with 68 people. Zakia Jafri was hidden in a room on the first floor of their house and was the only one who survived.

After this massacre, Zakia Jafri lodged a complaint on 8th June 2006, alleging Police inaction in which names of the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi along with several other ministers of his cabinet were mentioned.
In the year 2012, the Special Investigation Team (SIT ) constituted by the Supreme Court, stated that no prosecutable evidence was found against Mr. Narendra Modi and the other names mentioned in Zakia’s Complaint. This report was accepted in Ahmedabad.

About 24 persons were convicted at the end of the trial of the case in 2016. Mr. Narendra Modi was proved innocent by SIT in the year 2017 and the same was confirmed by the Gujarat High Court. But Zakia Jafri along with Setalvad challenged the order of the Gujarat HC and moved to the apex court.

On 24th June 2022, the petition challenging the clean chit to Mr. Narendraa Modi and 63 other people, which was filed by Zakia Jafri was dismissed by the Supreme Court. SC said Jafri’s plea is devoid of any merit. SIT opposed the plea in court by saying that the sinister planning behind the filing of the complaint is to probe a larger conspiracy. The original
complaint of Jafri was directed by Teesta Setalvad who leveled the allegations. On the very next day of the dismissal of Zakia Jafri’s plea, June Teesta Setalvad was arrested on a complaint filed by police inspector D B Barad from her home located at Juhu in Mumbai. She was then shifted to Ahmedabad. Also, former senior IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt and former DGP RB Sreekumar were arrested.

Some of the provisions involved in Teesta Setalvad’s arrest are section 468 Forgery for purpose of cheating;
IPC Section 471 using as genuine a forged document or electronic record; IPC Section 211 false charge of offence made with the intent to cause injury; IPC Section 120(B) criminal conspiracy; IPC Section 194 giving and fabricating false evidence with the intent to procure conviction of the capital offence.

Teesta’s reaction to her Arrest
After her arrest, Teesta said it was illegal. She said –“ without serving any notice the Anti–Terrorist Squad came and snatched my phone and even showed me the FIR when my lawyer came to my home “ she also indicated that a wound was inflicted on her hand because of the ATS. Further, she said that she is a human rights activist and is cooperating in investigations but also claimed that she should be given bail as this is a politically motivated case.
Supreme Court said that Teesta’s antecedents had exploited the petitioner’s emotions for ulterior motives. She is responsible for hurting the feelings of the original victim of the case.

Hundreds of advocates have written to the CJI condemning the proceedings being initiated against Teesta Setalvad. The letters express that these actions of the police send a wrong message toward the “practice of law”.

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