Thursday, January 09, 2014

Human Rights Defenders calls for urgent action in favour of Teesta, others facing arrest due to "malicious" FIR

Gulberg society after the attack
By Our Representative
The Human Rights Defenders Alert – India (HRDAI) has sounded an urgent appeal for action against the Gujarat police registering an FIR against well-known social worker Teesta Setalvad and four other human rights defenders, who are fighting for justice to Gujarat riots victims. Expressing “grave concern” regarding the latest round of “vindictive” actions against human rights defender Teesta Setalvad, secretary, Citizen's for Justice and Peace (CJP) and others, against whom the Gujarat Police Crime Branch has registered a “false FIR” on “malicious grounds of cheating”, the HRDAI has said, action is particularly needed as they face “the threat of arrest.”
Apart from Setalvad, those against whom the FIR has been lodged are Salimbhai Sandhi and Firoz Gulzar Pathan who both lost family in the vicious made on attack on Gulberg Society on February 28, 2002, when the riots broke out; Javed Anand, a civil rights activist (Setalvad’s husband); and Tanvir Jafri, son of late Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, slain at Gulberg Society during the riots. “Crime Branch officials were quoted as saying that the case has been filed against five persons under Sections 120(B), 406 and 420 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 72 (A) of the Income Tax Act for allegedly usurping Rs 1.51 crore for turning the riot-ravaged Gulberg Society into a museum”, the HRDAI statement said.
Interim bail to Teesta Setalvad
Justice Mridula Bhatka of the Bombay High Court has granted interim bail to Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand, observing that the social activist Setalvad was “false implicated in the past”  and was also provided “similar relief” by the court earlier. In an application filed by Setalvad and Anand, the two had pleaded that the FIR 1/2014 filed by the Crime Branch of the Ahmedabad police was filed with “malafide intent”. 
It said, "The FIR is a malafide action of the Crime Branch, Ahmedabad, to intimidate a human rights defender. This is the fifth time that a false criminal case has been lodged since 2004 because of my and my organisation's consistent legal support to the victims of 2002 riots." The applicants alleged that the FIR was the latest effort to intimidate them by "powerful forces in Gujarat who wish(ed) to stymie the appeal in the Zakia Jafri case".
Residents of Gulberg Society came under attack during the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat in 2002, which led to the death of 68 persons. Saying that “the timing of the FIR is significant, given the fact that for a full eleven months after CJP and its sister organization Sabrang had given satisfactory explanations to the Crime Branch, investigations had been dropped”, the HDRAI said, “In a written complaint to the Crime Branch, Ahmedabad police, the office bearers of Gulberg Society had accused complainant Feroze Khan of forging the letterhead of the society.”
Pointing out that a former employee of CJP, Rais Khan has been “at the root of this and two other false criminal complaints against Teesta Setalvad”, the statement said, both are being “aggressively aided by the Gujarat police.” It added, “The sudden filing of this FIR soon after the Ahmedabad magistrate's acceptance of the SIT (Special Investigating Team) report in the Zakia Jafri vs Narendra Modi and 59 Others case is not without significance. The SIT had outsourced its work to DCP Crime Branch, Himanshu Shukl,a and the head of the Crime Branch, AK Sharma, who had handled the investigation last year. It was the same SIT that had made vile allegations against complainant Zakia Jafri and Teesta Setalvad during the hearing of the petition.”
The statement insisted, “The timing of this FIR replete with a threat of arrest is seen by the source as efforts to prevent prompt filing of appeal in the Zakia Jafri case against Narendra Modi and 59 others. The close nexus between top functionaries of the BJP who have been appearing for Rais Khan include Ram Jethmalani. Even advocates appearing for SIT have been appearing for Rais Khan in the High Court. A deliberate campaign to vilify the efforts to procure justice for the victims of the carnage of 2002 that has been sustained and supported by vested powerful interests in Gujarat and the opposition party at the national level has reached new heights over past weeks.”
Declaring solidarity with Teesta and other human rights defenders, the statement appealed the need to ensure that “the physical and psychological safety and integrity” of all of them are “guaranteed.” It added, there was a need to “independently investigate” into the case to verify the veracity of the complaint “by engaging a senior officer of the rank of an SP to investigate.” Till this investigation is over, “the Gujarat police should not to in any way arrest or cause any other restraint to Teesta or and her colleagues.”
In a separate statement, supporting Teesta and others in almost a similar tone, a group of prominent citizens of Gujarat has called the FIR a “fascist step”, saying it is part of the “Modi government’s efforts to block the legal remedies of appeal in the Gulberg case where the lower court recently accepted the SIT’s closure report and clean chit. This is apparent from legal expert Arun Jaitley’s open exhortation to close the case after a mere Magistrate court’s order. Why does the prospect of an appeal to higher courts so frightening the BJP and why is it so desperate in its efforts to block the legal remedies like higher court appeals?”
Those who have signed the statement are former BJP chief minister Suresh Mehta, Prakash N Shah, editor, Nirikshak, Gautam Thaker, general secretary, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Gujarat, Rohit Shukla, president, Save Education Gujarat, Dwarikanath Rath, convener, Lok Andolan Gujarat, Indubai Jani, editor, Naya Marg, Rajni Dave, Gujarat Sarvodaya Mandal, Mahesh Pandya, Gujarat Social Watch, and Meenakshi Joshi, Mahila Sanskriti Sanghathan.
Sajhi Duniya, a Lucknow-based NGO, expressing concern over the FIR, said, “The latest case against eminent social activist Teesta Setalvad is yet another example of the Modi government’s machinations to lure the victims of the state-sponsored mayhem and malign those who stand, without his fear, for justice.” It added, “We, the members of Saajhi Duniya, not only condemn the attempt of the vested interests to falsely implicate social activists like Teesta and Javed but also demand action against those who, by such acts, obstruct the course of justice. We also demand immediate withdrawal of the case and intervention in favour of the activists”.

No comments: