On Monday (1 January), the Gujarat High Court verbally expressed its initial disinclination to dismiss a First Information Report (FIR) from 2006, lodged in the Mahisagar district against activist Teesta Setalvad, in relation to the Pandarwada mass grave excavation case. This statement was made after a thorough review of the case records.
According to Indian Express, Justice Sandeep Bhatt questioned Setalvad's attorney, asking, "Why is there a need to drag such dead horses?" He then scheduled the next hearing for January 9. After reviewing the case records, Justice Bhatt expressed his initial reluctance, stating, "Prima facie, I am not inclined."
Setalvad faced accusations for purportedly unearthing bodies of victims from the 2002 Gujarat riots and generating a media frenzy by showcasing them via electronic media.
It's important to note that in a 2022 FIR lodged by the Detection of Crime Branch in Ahmedabad, the prosecution and law enforcement used this case to point out Setalvad's alleged history of concocting evidence related to the Gujarat riots.
Setalvad is attempting to nullify the FIR that was lodged on 2 January 2006, and the subsequent chargesheet associated with the case. The FIR was registered under multiple sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) including 192, 193 for fabricating false evidence, 201 for causing the disappearance of evidence, 120B for criminal conspiracy, 295A for deliberate and malicious acts aimed at offending religious sentiments by insulting its religion or religious beliefs, 297 for trespassing on burial grounds, and 114 for abetment.
In the 2022 case, authorities accuse Setalvad, accompanied by former IPS officers RB Sreekumar and Sanjiv Bhatt, of attempting to frame the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was then the Gujarat chief minister, along with high-ranking state government officials and senior BJP leaders. They are alleged to have initiated a false case relating to the mass fatalities during the 2002 sectarian clashes.
In June 2022, Setalvad was taken into custody by the Gujarat Anti Terrorism Squad, following the Supreme Court's rejection of a petition for an investigation into a broader conspiracy behind the riots, brought forward by Zakia Jafri, the widow of Congress MP Ehsan Jafri. However, she was released on bail by the highest court in July 2023.
In November 2023, the Supreme Court provided Setalvad and her spouse, Javed Anand, with anticipatory bail concerning a case accusing them of misappropriating funds intended for the Gujarat riots victims.
Nishtha Anushree is Senior Sub-editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @nishthaanushree.
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