Supreme Court posts final hearing for July
The Supreme Court on Monday extended the stay on criminal proceedings pending before a Gujarat trial court against social activist Teesta Setalvad for her alleged role in exhuming the bodies of post-Godhra riot victims at Pandarwada and surrounding villages in 2006.
A Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Desai posted the matter for final hearing in July.
Earlier, Justice Alam asked the Gujarat Government how it annexed the statements of witnesses when the Supreme Court had granted a stay. However, counsel Hemantika Wahi clarified that “the witnesses' statements which supported the allegation of “fabricating” evidence, purportedly at the behest of Ms. Setalvad, were recorded prior to the stay on proceedings.”
Counsel said: “The investigation was carried out by the police and the statements of witnesses were recorded on the orders of the [Gujarat] High Court.”
Ms. Setalvad's appeal was directed against a May 27, 2011 High Court order, refusing to quash the First Information Report registered against her at the Panchmahal police station.
The FIR related to exhuming bodies of the 2002 riot victims from a graveyard near the Panam river. It alleged that Ms. Setalvad was the prime conspirator. She was implicated in the case by one of her former close aides, Rais Khan, who had been associated earlier with Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP). Mr. Khan alleged that the bodies were exhumed at her instance.
In its response, the State government annexed the statements of seven witnesses, who recorded their evidence between July 22 and 25 last before a senior police officer as per the orders of an Ahmedabad court.
Mr. Khan had alleged that he was removed as a field co-coordinator of the NGO in January 2008, as he refused to “do certain acts which were not in the interest of communal harmony.”
He said he was facilitating witnesses in preparing affidavits at her behest. He said most of the victims and witnesses were poor and uneducated but still their affidavits were prepared in English, on the pretext that Gujarati was not accepted in the High Court and the Supreme Court, with the help of a particular advocate and court notary.
Denying the allegations, Ms. Setalvad said: “Far from being pathetic or aggrieved acts of an innocent former employee, these are actions well-heeled and motivated not simply to launch a vicious and vindictive campaign against an upright legal rights group aiding hapless victims but, in a sinister fashion, seek to curb the freedom of my movement.”