Teesta, Sreekumar remanded in police custody, SIT formed
Activist Teesta Setalvad and former Gujarat DGP RB Sreekumar were remanded in a case registered against them on charges of forgery and criminal conspiracy
A metropolitan court in Ahmedabad on Sunday granted remand till July 2 to the Ahmedabad crime branch for questioning activist Teesta Setalvad and former Gujarat DGP RB Sreekumar in a case registered against them on charges of forgery and criminal conspiracy, among others.
The Gujarat government on Sunday decided to form a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by the state’s Anti-Terrorism Squad DIG Deepan Bhadran to investigate the role of Setalvad, Sreekumar and former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt following an FIR lodged against them for giving false testimonies in connection with the 2002 Gujarat riots, a top police official said.
The six-member SIT will include DCP (Crime) Chaitanya Mandlik, ATS SP Sunil Joshi, Deputy SP (Special Operations Group) BC Solanki, who will be the investigating officer, and a woman police inspector, among others, the official said on conditions of anonymity.
The terms of reference, he said, include collection of evidence to investigate the case as per recent directions of the Supreme Court.
Setalvad was detained from her house in the Juhu area of Mumbai on Saturday afternoon after an FIR was registered against her at the Ahmedabad crime branch hours ago, based on a complaint lodged by crime branch inspector DB Barad.
Earlier in the day, the Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) handed her over to the crime branch. Setalvad, who was brought from Mumbai to Ahmedabad by an ATS team, and Sreekumar, who was arrested from his home on Saturday, were produced before metropolitan magistrate DA Jadav in Ahmedabad on Sunday.
The crime branch sought 14-day remand of Setalvad, saying she was not cooperating with police during investigation.
Setalvad complained of injuries caused by an alleged assault by the police while detaining her. The police denied the allegation. She was taken for a medical check-up to a government hospital after directions by the court, said sources.
“The court has granted remand till July 2. Earlier it (the court) gave five-day remand till June 1 but the police officials will be busy on that day due to rath yatra processions, hence it has been extended by a day,” said advocate Somnath Vats, who appeared on behalf of Setalvad.
The FIR was lodged against Setalvad, Sreekumar, and Bhatt on Saturday after the Supreme Court dismissed a petition filed by Zakia Jafri, whose husband Ehsan Jafri was killed in the riots, alleging a larger conspiracy and challenging the clean chit given by the SIT to then chief minister Narendra Modi and others in the 2002 riots cases.
The apex court expressed the need to proceed against those “disgruntled officers” and others whose “coalesced effort was to create sensation by making false revelations”.
In the complaint, Barad cited Friday’s Supreme Court judgment, which said, “At the end of the day it appears to us that a coalesced effort of the disgruntled officers 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 the claims has been fully exposed by the SIT after thorough investigation… all those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law.”
Such officials need to be in the dock for “keeping pot boiling” with an ulterior motive, said the SC order.
In view of these observations, the Ahmedabad city crime branch on Saturday registered a case against Bhatt, Sreekumar and Setalvad under Sections 194 (giving or fabricating false evidence), 211 (false charge of offence made with intent to injure), 218 (public servant framing incorrect record), 468 (forgery for the purpose of cheating), 471 (using as genuine a forged document or electronic record) read with 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code based on the final report of the SIT, which enquired into Jafri’s allegations of a larger conspiracy behind the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat.
Bhatt is already behind bars in a separate case and the process of his transfer warrant and arrest is on, police officials said.
Bhatt and Sreekumar are also accused of providing false information to the SIT, according to the FIR.
The time frame of the offence in the FIR was recorded as “January 1, 2002 to June 25, 2022”.
During the 2002 riots in Gujarat, 69 people were killed in the Gulbarg housing society in Ahmedabad, including Congress MP Ehsan Jafri. His wife Zakia Jafri and activist Teesta Setalvad’s organisation, Citizens for Justice and Peace, blamed the then chief minister Modi and 62 others for their alleged inaction during the riots. In 2012, the SIT rejected claims of a conspiracy and submitted its findings in a local magistrate’s court, which accepted the report. Jafri challenged the report and sought a reinvestigation, which was rejected by the court in October 2017. She then approached the Supreme Court.
Based on Barad’s complaint, and the final report of the SIT, the Ahmedabad city crime branch on Saturday registered a case against Bhatt, Sreekumar and Setalvad.