Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Case against Teesta Setalvad or the Gujarat Model of Vindictive Action

As the hearing in the anticipatory bail applications of Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand and three survivors of the Gulberg society massacre, Tanvir Jafri, Salim Sandhi and Firoz Gulzar Pathan comes up on July 9, 2014, recapitulates the case against the activists. A study of the affidavits and counter-affidavits shows a vindictive state gunning for activists.
For years on Teeta Setalvad and Javed Anand have been steadfastly working for justice for victims and survivors of the Gujarat riots of 2002. The efforts of their organization Citizens for Peace and Justice (CJP) and its lawyers has been instrumental in securing over a hundred convictions in riot-related cases since 2002. These include life sentences to former BJP MLA and minister in Narendra Modi cabinet Maya Kodnani and Gujarat’s Bajrang Dal leader, Babu Bajrangi for their role in the Naroda Patiya massacre. In total, as many as 120+ convictions of powerful perpetrators to life imprisonment have taken place due to the efforts of the CJP team. 
The last few months have seen them embroiled in a legal battle with the Gujarat state. Given the level of lies and misinformation being spread on the social media, here is a chronology of events to put the case in perspective.
March 2013
Allegations Surface:
One Feroz Saeedkhan Pathan, who used to live in Gulberg Society during 2002 riots sent a complaint to the the Crime Branch, Ahmedabad Police on behalf of the office bearers of the Gulberg Society in March 2013. He alleged that human rights defender and social activist Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand, son of slain Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, Tanvir Jafri, Gulbarg Society’s secretary, Feroz Gulzar; and its chairman Salim Sandh had indulged in breach of trust, cheating and criminal conspiracy in raising funds for a riot memorial museum in Gulberg Society, Ahmedabad.
According to him, the accused collected crores but instead of using it for the museum, used Rs 1.51 crores out of the collected donations, for their personal purpose between 2007 and 2011.
Investigation Closed:
The veracity of the complaint became doubtful when it emerged that Pathan had forged the letterhead of the Gulberg Society to file the complaint.
CJP and Sabrang issued a public affidavit which showed that only Rs 4.6 lakhs was collected for the muesum. Of this, only Rs 50,000 was received under FCRA. The remaining donations were received from India. But as the land prices spiraled, the dream for a memorial was abandoned. The audited accounts and resolutions passed in the society proved as much. No money or property had ever changed hands.
Following this satisfactory explanation to the Crime Branch, the investigation was dropped.
Since January 2014
Case Reopened:
Between April and May 2013 the Zakia Jafri Protest Petition against Narendra Modi and 59 Others (including senior officials now serving in the Crime Branch Ahmedabad and Ahmedabad police) was filed and argued. The Magistrate rejected the Protest Petition on 26.12.2013. Eight days later, as the CJP prepared for filing the Appeal to the Magistrate’s Order in the Smt. Zakia Jafri protest petition, the complaint was revived and an FIR registered in January 2014, despite the fact that the complainant had forged the Gulberg Society letterhead, and despite the appalling lack of any evidence of foul play or fraud.
Arrest Imminent:
The accused moved first the Bombay High Court for transit bail and thereafter the SC for anticipatory bail application in February. However, the SC rejected the same but granted protection from arrest till March directing that the competent court of jurisdiction would lie in Gujarat. In March, the Ahmedabad city and sessions court rejected the anticipatory bail applications of Setalvad, Anand, Jafri and other accused, making their arrest by DCB imminent.
They immediately moved the Gujarat High Court seeking anticipatory bail as well as the quashing of the FIR. The High Court stayed the arrest till 4th April.
Since then, there have been several hearings in the matter. At each hearing the Gujarat State sought time for replying to the anticipatory bail applications, or has filed lengthy affidavits, renewing the allegations or adding new ones – but each time without a shred of evidence... read more: