'Setalvad enacted conspiracy at behest of senior political leader, received money': Gujarat to SC

A bench headed by Chief Justice U U Lalit is scheduled to hear Setalvad's plea on Tuesday.
Activist Teesta Setalvad (Photo | PTI)
Activist Teesta Setalvad (Photo | PTI)

NEW DELHI: The Gujarat government has told the Supreme Court that activist Teesta Setalvad, arrested for allegedly fabricating evidence to frame "innocent people" in the 2002 Gujarat riot cases, had "enacted" the conspiracy along with other accused at the behest of a senior political leader.

In an affidavit filed in the apex court in response to Setalvad's plea seeking bail, the state has claimed that the petitioner had held meetings with the said political leader and received "large amounts of money".

A bench headed by Chief Justice U U Lalit is scheduled to hear Setalvad's plea on Tuesday.

The affidavit, filed by the chief of the special investigation team (SIT) constituted to probe the case lodged in June this year, said the FIR is not solely based upon the June 24, 2022 judgement of the top court.

The apex court had on June 24 dismissed a plea filed by Zakia Jafri, the wife of former Congress MP Ehsaan Jafri who was killed in Ahmedabad during the riots triggered by the torching of a coach of Sabarmati Express by a mob near Godhra station on February 27, 2002.

As many as 59 passengers were charred to death in the incident.

"It is submitted that a perusal of the FIR shows that though the alleged offence commenced by some actions of the petitioner and others in her connivance and the legal proceedings concluded by the said judgement, the investigation is on independent grounds which is categorically clarified in the FIR itself," the affidavit said.

It said if an individual makes an allegation which is found to be false, it can always be investigated as to why, with what motive and how such fabrication and falsification took place as an independent offence.

The affidavit alleged that the probe conducted so far has revealed several new evidences substantiating the commission of offences as a part of a larger conspiracy.

"It is submitted that the investigation which has commenced and has reached so far, has unearthed pre-mediated and collusive criminal acts by various persons with the petitioner playing a major role in giving effect to the conspiracy for oblique purpose," it said.

The affidavit said, in the probe conducted so far, statements of several witnesses have been recorded, including statements of four persons under section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) (by a magistrate).

"It is submitted that the investigation conducted so far has brought irrefutable material on record to substantiate the contents of the FIR that the applicant, along with other accused persons, had done various criminal acts of omission and commission to achieve political, financial and other material benefits by means of executing the conspiracy," it said.

The affidavit claimed that a larger conspiracy had been hatched by the petitioner along with other accused persons with "oblique motives", as clearly emerging in the statements of various witnesses, which are serious and independent offences.

"It is submitted that the statements of these witnesses establish that the conspiracy was enacted by the present petitioner, along with other accused persons, at the behest of a senior leader of a political party," it claimed.

The affidavit said, "It is submitted that the petitioner had held meetings with the said political leader and had received large amounts of money. It is submitted that it has come on record by way of the statement of a witness that such money was not part of any relief-related corpus."

It said the witnesses have stated that within a week of the riots, Setalvad had come to Ahmedabad and held several meetings with various political functionaries and other co-accused.

"It is submitted that statements of two witnesses recorded before the magistrate under section 164 of CrPC further reflect that meetings were also held in New Delhi where the applicant and the other accused persons participated," the affidavit said.

It said the witnesses have stated that in furtherance of the larger conspiracy, the petitioner had generated false evidence and made false charges, invoking the names of persons other than those stated by the victims in various riot cases.

The affidavit said the agency will be opposing Setalvad's bail before the Gujarat High Court on grounds, including that there is a strong case made out against her.

On August 22, the apex court had sought a response from the Gujarat government on the bail plea of Setalvad, who was arrested in June, in the case.

The Gujarat High Court had on August 3 issued a notice to the state government on the bail plea of Setalvad and fixed the matter for hearing on September 19.

A sessions court in Ahmedabad had on July 30 rejected the bail applications of Setalvad and former Director General of Police R B Sreekumar in the case.

Setalvad and Sreekumar, both arrested in June, are accused of fabricating evidence to frame "innocent people" in the post-Godhra riots cases.

Sreekumar has also moved the high court for bail.

Former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, the third accused in the case, has not applied for bail.

Bhatt was already in jail for another criminal matter when he was arrested in this case.

They were arrested by the Ahmedabad city crime branch in June after a First Information Report (FIR) was registered against them under Indian Penal Code sections 468 (forgery for cheating) and 194 (fabricating false evidence with intent to procure conviction for capital offences).

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