Day after Gujarat verdict, Teesta Setalvad, ex-IPS officer held

FIR names Setalvad, R.B. Sreekumar and Sanjiv Bhatt under various charges, including forgery and criminal conspiracy

June 25, 2022 06:16 pm | Updated June 26, 2022 08:50 am IST - Mumbai/Ahmedabad

Activist Teesta Setalvad at Santacruz police station in Mumbai after her detention by Gujarat Police on June 25, 2022.

Activist Teesta Setalvad at Santacruz police station in Mumbai after her detention by Gujarat Police on June 25, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

Ahmedabad Police on Saturday arrested former Indian Police Service (IPS) whistle-blower officer R.B. Sreekumar, and detained Mumbai-based social activist Teesta Setalvad, after filing a first information report (FIR) naming them, along with jailed dismissed IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, accusing them of various charges, including forgery and criminal conspiracy, and under other Sections of the IPC.

The police crackdown came a day after the Supreme Court upheld the clean chit given to then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and others in the 2002 riots case, endorsing the report of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by it, which had filed a closure report against Mr. Modi and others.

The court dismissed the allegations of a “larger conspiracy” behind the communal riots in 2002 and rejected the petition filed by Zakia Jafri, widow of former parliamentarian Ehsan Jafri, who was killed along with 69 others in the Gulberg Society massacre in Ahmedabad in 2002.

The police have booked Mr. Sreekumar, Mr. Bhatt and Ms. Setalvad under the Section 468 (forgery for the purpose of cheating), Section 471 (using as genuine a forged document), Section 194 (providing or fabricating false evidence with intent to procure conviction of capital offence), Section 211 (false charge of offence made with intent to injure), Section 218 (public servant framing incorrect record or writing with intent to save person from punishment or property from forfeiture), and Section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.

After filing the FIR at the Detection of Crime Branch of Ahmedabad Police, the police picked up Mr. Sreekumar, a former senior police officer who worked with Ms. Setalvad on the 2002 riots cases after his superannuation, from his residence in Gandhinagar, while a team from the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) was rushed to Mumbai to pick up Ms. Setalvad, whose NGO, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), was a petitioner in various petitions on the 2002 riots cases in the Gujarat High Court and Supreme Court.

Ms. Setalvad is being brought to Ahmedabad and will be arrested after her custody is handed over to Crime Branch officials.

The 10-page FIR provides details of alleged forgery and cites observations from the Supreme Court verdict delivered on June 24. “At the end of the day, it appears to us that a coalesced effort of the disgruntled officials of the State of Gujarat along with others was to create sensation by making revelations which were false to their own knowledge. The falsity of their claims had been fully exposed by the SIT after a thorough investigation,” the SC noted in the verdict.

“Intriguingly, the present proceedings have been pursued for last 16 years (from submission of complaint dated 8.6.2006 running into 67 pages and then by filing protest petition dated 15.4.2013 running into 514 pages) including with the audacity to question the integrity of every functionary involved in the process of exposing the devious stratagem adopted (to borrow the submission of learned counsel for the SIT), to keep the pot boiling, obviously, for ulterior design. As a matter of fact, all those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law,” the apex court said.

Mr. Sreekumar was briefly in-charge of the State Intelligence Bureau during the 2002 communal violence. He had accused the State administration of preventing the police from carrying out their duties during the communal riots, while Bhatt had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court naming Mr. Modi regarding his role in the riots. Bhatt had also alleged that he had attended a meeting called by the then CM at his residence after the Sabarmati Express was torched in Godhra, in which 59 pilgrims returning from Ayodhya were charred to death.

The FIR by Darshansinh B. Barad, Police Inspector, Detection of Crime Branch, Ahmedabad city, alleges that Ms. Jafri had admitted in her cross-examination in the Gulbarg Society case that Mr. Sreekumar, then an IPS officer, had come to the said building on February 28, 2002, and that he had been working with Ms. Setalvad. Ms. Jafri had also given a statement before the Nanavati Shah Commission (appointed to probe the Godhra train burning) on August 22, 2003, but she had no occasion to read the copy of the statement. “This indicates that Ms. Jafri was tutored by Ms. Setalvad, a fact that she had to admit in cross examination,” the FIR mentions.

According to the FIR, Ms. Jafri had also admitted in the cross examination that she had followed Ms. Setalvad’s instructions through out. In the final supplementary report by the SIT, it had been clearly noted that 19 witnesses insisted on recording their signed statements, which according to them had been prepared by Ms. Setalvad.

“Around 5.30 p.m., six police officers came to office and took Teesta to the Santacruz Police Station. The officers forcefully took Teesta and said they had a warrant but did not show it,” Surekha Kalmaste, who works with Ms. Setalvad at the Sabrang office, said.

Ms. Setalvad wrote a letter to the senior police officer of the Santacruz Police Station that read: “A lady police officer in a t-shirt and jeans walked into my room and assaulted me. They did not show me any FIR or warrant on why they had 8-10 people in my compound. I have a big bruise on my left hand. I got a call in the afternoon asking my colleague who was in-charge of my security and how many personnel are in-charge. Within half an hour, two Central Industrial Security Force armed police officers came to our office.”

The Supreme Court-appointed SIT headed by former Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director R. K. Raghavan had dismissed the allegations levelled by Mr. Sreekumar and Mr. Bhatt in its final report, which was placed before the apex court.

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