A day after the Supreme Court upheld the all clear given by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2002 riots cases, the Gujarat police on Saturday arrested former Director General of Police R B Sreekumar and took in custody social activist Teesta Setalvad for allegedly conspiring to falsely implicate innocent persons.
The First Information Report (FIR), based on a complaint filed by an Ahmedabad crime branch official, also named former Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Sanjiv Bhatt, who is already in jail in another case.
Teesta Setalvad, who was picked up from her Mumbai residence, claimed her arrest was illegal and apprehended threat to her life.
She will be arrested once she is brought to Ahmedabad, police sources said.
Sanjiv Bhatt is sentenced to life imprisonment in a custodial death case, and in another case he is accused of planting contraband to frame a lawyer in a false case.
Teesta Setalvad was detained from her house in the Juhu area of Mumbai and later taken to Santacruz police station for informing the local police about her detention, sources said.
“She has been taken by the Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad….we were not informed in advance about the case. They barged into the house and assaulted her before taking her with them,” alleged her lawyer Vijay Hiremath.
But a local police official denied that Teesta Setalvad was assaulted.
Teesta Setalvad, Sanjiv Bhatt and R B Sreekumar “conspired to abuse the process of law by fabricating false evidence to make several persons to be convicted in an offence that is punishable with capital punishment,” said the complaint filed by inspector D B Barad of Ahmedabad crime branch.
They instituted “false and malicious criminal proceedings against innocent people with intention to cause injury to several persons, and prepared false records and dishonestly used those records as genuine with the intention to cause damage and injury to many persons,” as per the complaint.
The complaint drew on various submissions made before the Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed by the Supreme Court to investigate the 2002 Gujarat riots cases and submissions made by the accused before the Justice Nanavati-Shah Commission of Inquiry.
The FIR was registered earlier in the day under sections 468, 471 (forgery), 194 (giving or fabricating false evidence with intent to procure conviction of capital offence), 211 (institute criminal proceedings to cause injury), 218 (public servant framing incorrect record or writing with intent to save person from punishment or property from forfeiture), and 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.
“Teesta Setalvad conjured, concocted, forged, fabricated facts and documents and/or evidence including fabrication of documents by persons who were protective witnesses of the complainant, Zakia Jafri,” as per the complaint.
Teesta Setalvad and her Non-Governmental Organization were co-petitioner swith Zakia Jafri in the petition filed against then chief minister Narendra Modi and others in the Supreme Court. The court dismissed the petition on Friday and upheld the clean chit given to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and others.
The complaint also accused Teesta Setalvad of influencing and tutoring witnesses and making them depose on pre-typed affidavits. Even Zakia Jafri was tutored by Teesta Setalvad, as was clear from her statement before the Nanavati Commission on August 22, 2003, it said.
IPS officers Sanjiv Bhatt and R B Sreekumar — who was additional director general of police (DGP) of Armed Unit during the 2002 Godhra riot, and intelligence DGP soon after — had made several depositions before the Nanavati Commission of Inquiry that were against the Gujarat government, the complaint said.
Sanjiv Bhatt allegedly forged various documents mailed to the SIT and also falsely claimed he attended a late night meeting on February 27, 2002, called by the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi at his residence, it said.
R B Sreekumar’s nine affidavits before the Nanavati-Shah Commission were the source of many of the allegations in Zakia Jafri’s petition, it claimed.
In its judgment passed on Friday, the Supreme Court had observed that “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 … As a matter of fact, all those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceed in accordance with law,” the court order said.
In its judgment, the top court had also noted the objections raised by the respondents on Teesta Setalvad joining as petitioner number two in the plea after Zakia Jafri. The respondents objected on the grounds of Teesta Setalvad’s “antecedents” and also for her “ulterior design by exploiting the emotions and sentiments of appellant–Zakia Jafri, the real victim of the circumstances.” However, no direct role of Teesta Setalvad was mentioned in the court verdict.
Zakia Jafri’s husband and former Congress Member of Parliament Ehsan Jafri was killed during the riots.
A police officer in Mumbai said Teesta Setalvad handed a written complaint to Santa Cruz police station, and “they are processing it.” Teesta Setalvad’s complaint alleged that Gujarat police “barged into” her compound, did not show her a copy of the FIR or warrant against her, and there was a “big bruise” on her left hand.
“I fear seriously for my life,” her complaint added.