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Gujarat govt's case against activist Teesta Setalvad fake: SC

Source: PTI
February 21, 2012 13:50 IST
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The Supreme Court on Tuesday questioned the Gujarat government for initiating a probe against social activist Teesta Setalvad for her alleged role in a case of illegal exhumation of the bodies of the 2002 riot victims, saying it is a "spurious" case to victimise her.

"This is a hundred percent spurious case to victimise the petitioner (Setalvad)," said a bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai.

While criticising the state government for beginning the probe against Setalvad, it added, "This type of case does no credit to the state of Gujarat in any way."

"This case is hundred percent spurious. In other cases against petitioner, there may be something," the bench said.

Besides this case, the Gujarat government has also lodged criminal proceedings against her in other riot-related cases.

The bench was of the view that it was not correct on the part of the Gujarat government to go ahead with the case.

It asked senior advocate Pradeep Ghosh, who appeared for the Gujarat government, to go through the First Information Report of the case and advise the government not to proceed with it.

"You advise your client not to proceed with this type of case. You should show some responsibility and tell the government not to proceed with the case," the bench said.

While posting the matter for March 23, the bench asked the senior counsel to go through the FIR "passionately" and tell the court what he feels about it.

The bench also asked Gujarat government's standing counsel Hemantika Wahi to go through the FIR.

The bench was hearing a petition filed by Setalvad against the May 27 order of the Gujarat high court, which had refused to quash the FIR registered against her at a police station in Panchmahal district of the state, on the exhumation of bodies from a graveyard near river Panam.

While making the critical remarks against the Gujarat government for initiating the probe against Setalvad in the body exhumation case, the bench said its interim stay, imposed on July 29, 2011 on criminal proceedings against Setalvad in the case, would continue till the next date of hearing.

"Interim stay to continue till the next date," it said.

Responding to the apex court's notice, the state government had in its affidavit justified its probe against Setalvad in the case, saying she actually planned and executed the digging of the graves without any permission in 2006.

It had claimed that during the probe into the case, it has emerged that "Teesta Setalvad, the petitioner herein, was the main accused, who actually planned and executed this operation of digging of graves near Pandarwada through her staff."

The government had said the other accused have claimed innocence and had blamed Setalvad for instigating them to carry out the exhumation, which is a penal offence.

"Exhumation of the dead bodies without prior permission of the competent authorities constitutes an offence under sections 192 (fabricating false evidence), 193 (punishment for false evidence, 201 (causing disappearance of evidence), 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 295(A) (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings) and 297 (trespassing on burial places) of IPC," the affidavit had said.

It was alleged that in 2002, nearly 28 unidentified bodies of riot victims from Pandarwada and surrounding villages in Khanpur taluka were buried in the graveyard.

Earlier, the high court had declined to scrap the FIR, but had quashed the summons, which had termed her as absconding. In its May 27, 2011 order, the high court had observed that by showing Setalvad as an absconding accused in the charge sheet filed in April "a glaring mistake has been committed by the investigating officer".

The FIR had alleged that Setalvad, who had earlier secured anticipatory bail from a local court in Panchmahal district, was the prime conspirator behind the incident.

The state government, in its affidavit, had named five accused Rais Khan Pathan, Gulam Kharadi, Sikander Abbas, Qutub Shah Diwan and Jabir Mohammed, who in their respective statements blamed Setalvad for instigating them.

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