Thursday, May 26, 2011

High Court reserves order on Setalvad's plea

She wants FIR, summons in Lunawada mass grave digging case quashed

The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday reserved its order till May 27 on the plea of Teesta Setalvad, general secretary of the Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), to quash the first information report (FIR) and summons issued against her in connection with the 2005 Lunawada mass grave-digging case.

Even as her advocate Kamini Jaiswal demanded quashing of the FIR on the ground that Ms. Setalvad was not even present at the site of digging, State government counsel Prakash Jani told vacation judge G.B. Shah that the Mumbai-based social activist was a “prime accused” and was not just a witness as was being made out.

He said Ms. Setalvad was named accused in the case on the basis of statements by five of her former associates who had opposed her anticipatory bail plea in a local court in the Panchamahals district earlier this year.

Ms. Jaiswal said Ms. Setalvad was not at all present at the digging site and claimed that the FIR and the summons against her were “motivated and mala fide” and were intended at stopping her from helping the 2002 communal riot victims in the court cases.

Mr Jani quoted from the report of the Sanitary Inspector of the Lunawada Municipality in which he had described the circumstances leading to the “official burial” of 28 bodies of riot victims on the banks of the Panam river outside the Lunawada town because the bodies were “unclaimed.”

Some people claiming to be “relatives” of those buried there, along with Rais Khan Pathan, the then field co-ordinator of the CJP, had dug up the mass graves on instructions from Ms. Setalvad on December 27, 2005, without permission, Mr. Jani told the court. Ms. Setalvad became an accused with the filing of the charge sheet on April 3 this year.

Ms. Setalvad was granted anticipatory bail by a local court on February 15, 2011, but it was opposed by her co-accused, including Mr. Rais Khan Pathan, Ghulambhai Kharadi and others, who testified before the magistrate that they had dug up the mass graves at her behest.

Mr. Jani said the charges against Ms. Setalvad included fabricating false evidence, causing disappearance of evidence, criminal conspiracy, hurting religious feelings, trespass into burial place and others. He also told the court that the FIR was culminated into a charge sheet only after the investigations were concluded and she was prima facie found guilty of the charges.

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