Paving the way for their arrests, a civil and sessions court in Ahmedabad on Tuesday rejected the anticipatory bail application of activist Teesta Setalvad, her husband Javed Anand and three others in the alleged riots-related fund embezzlement case. Although Setalvad is protected from arrest till 31 March as ordered by the Supreme Court, the activist is likely to move Gujarat High Court against the order. Additional sessions judge S M Vora, while rejecting the application, observed that there is ample evidence against the accused persons and police investigation is needed in the presence of the accused.
Ajay Choksi, special public prosecutor, said that the court upheld the argument that the funds collected for the riot victims were not used properly. Instead, they were used by the accused for personal purposes such as payment of credit cards, among other things.
Ahmedabad’s Detection of Crime Branch (DCB), which lodged an FIR, had filed various affidavits claiming that Setalvad and her husband allegedly embezzled funds which she raised to help the 2002 post-Godhra riot victims.
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In the affidavits, DCB officials also claimed that Setalvad paid her credit card bills from the funds meant for converting Gulberg Society into “museum of resistance” in Ahmedabad. It was alleged that she paid for her groceries and wine, among other bills, from the funds.
In reply, Setalvad had refuted these allegations, claiming that he cleared the bills of credit cards in lieu of her work for Citizen for Justice and Peace (CJP), an NGO which she runs, assisting the victims of riots. While admitting that the expense was personal in nature, she claimed that the payments were made after the decision of CJP’s trustees. “The court has not taken our arguments into consideration. We will approach Gujarat High Court soon,” said advocate S M Vohra, who represented Setalvad and her husband in the court.
In January this year, a former resident of Gulberg Society, Firoz Saeedkhan Pathan, had lodged an FIR with the DCB, accusing Setalvad, her husband Javed Anand, Tanvir Jafri, son of ex-Congress MP Ahsan Jafri and Salim Sindhi and Feroz Gulzar Pathan, chairman and secretary of Gulberg Society respectively, of embezzlement. In Gulberg Society, 69 persons, including Ahsan Jafri, had been killed during the 2002 riots.
According to the complainant, the accused grabbed photographs and video footage of Gulberg Society and several other riot-hit areas in Gujarat and uploaded them on the websites of CJP and Sabrang Communications, a trust run by Anand. Through these footage and pictures, the accused persons appealed for funds to build a mausoleum and reportedly collected about Rs 1.51 crore.
However, Setalvad and others have been accused of appealing for funds without the consent of several residents of the society, including the complainant. In the court proceeding, Setalvad argued that it was done following a resolution passed unanimously by the residents.