Gujarat Crime Branch Arrests Setalvad; Probe on to Find Role of Others in Criminal Conspiracy

The Ahmedabad crime branch on Sunday arrested activist Teesta Setalvad, a day after she was detained in Mumbai and shifted to Gujarat, in connection with a fresh case of forgery, criminal conspiracy and insulting criminal proceedings to cause injury registered against her, officials said. A day earlier, the crime branch had arrested former Gujarat DGP Sreekumar and is in the process of getting a transfer warrant for ex-IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt’s custody in connection with the FIR lodged against them, said DCP (crime), Chaitanya Mandlik.

He said the crime branch will collect documents submitted by Setalvad, Sreekumar and Bhatt to the Commission of Inquiry, the Special Investigation Team (SIT), and courts regarding the 2002 communal riots cases as part of the investigation. “The investigation is underway in this case and we are procuring documents that were submitted by the accused persons before the Commission of Inquiry, SIT (formed by the Supreme Court to investigate 2002 riots cases), and different courts…Affidavits and other documents are the main basis for the FIR, and we are trying to collect other documents as well,” he told reporters.

Investigators believe that more people may be involved in the criminal conspiracy and the probe is conducted from this angle, Mandlik said, adding that none of the two accused-Sreekumar and Setalvad- are cooperating in the investigation. Setalvad was detained from her house in Juhu area of Mumbai on Saturday afternoon after an FIR was registered against her at the Ahmedabad crime branch based on a complaint lodged by a crime branch inspector D B Barad. She was brought to Ahmedabad via road by the Gujarat police squad.

“After being brought here, Setalvad was handed over to the city crime branch on Sunday morning. She will soon be placed under arrest,” a crime branch source had said earlier in the day. The FIR was lodged against Setalvad, Sreekumar, and Bhatt after the Supreme Court dismissed a petition challenging the clean chit given by the SIT to then chief minister Narendra Modi and others in the 2002 post-Godhra riots cases.

“The FIR is based on the observation made by the Supreme Court in its judgment, which said, ‘As a matter of fact, all those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceed as per law,’ Mandlik said. Setalvad, who is the secretary of NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace, is also accused of conspiring to fabricate facts and documents, tutor witnesses and abuse the process of law by fabricating false evidence to frame people, based on the submissions made before the SIT formed by the Supreme Court to investigate the 2002 Gujarat riots cases and before the Justice Nanavati-Shah Commission of Inquiry.

Setalvad and her NGO were co-petitioners with Zakia Jafri in the petition filed against Modi and others in the Supreme Court. Jafri’s husband and former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri was killed during the riots. While former DGP Sreekumar was arrested, Bhatt is currently lodged in jail after being convicted of life imprisonment in a custodial death case. In another case, he has also been charged with planting contraband to frame a lawyer.

The FIR invoked 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 a person from punishment or property from forfeiture), and 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code. The officer said that while the investigation is at the primary stage, all the persons who are found to be involved in the criminal conspiracy will be arrested.

After her detention, Setalvad claimed her “arrest” was illegal and apprehended a threat to her life. On her accusation that she was roughed up by the Gujarat police, Mandlik said that due process was followed and Setalvad is free to lodge a complaint before the court of the magistrate.

Setalvad, Bhatt and Sreekumar have been accused of having conspired “to abuse the process of law by fabricating false evidence to make several persons to having committed an offence that is punishable with capital punishment.” .

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