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A day after the Supreme Court upheld the clean chit by the SIT to then Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the 2002 Gujarat riots, the Ahmedabad Detection of Crime Branch (DCB) arrested retired state DGP R B Sreekumar, whose role had been called into question by the Court, and Mumbai-based activist Teesta Setalvad, who backed the petitioner, Zakia Jafri.
The two were held on charges of criminal conspiracy, forgery and other Sections of the IPC on the basis of an FIR lodged in the DCB by Inspector Darshansinh Barad, which quotes extensively from the Court order. Also named in the nine-page FIR, filed on behalf of the Gujarat state, is former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, who also faced strictures in the Supreme Court order. Bhatt is already in jail in connection with another case.
While a team of the Ahmedabad Crime Branch picked up Sreekumar from his residence in Gandhinagar on Saturday afternoon, Setalvad was detained from her Mumbai residence.
The arrests came hours after Union Home Minister Amit Shah, in an interview to ANI, criticised the role of “a police official” and Setalvad’s NGO, apart from media, in the case against Modi.
Sreekumar was taken to the Crime Branch headquarters in Jamalpur, Ahmedabad, where he was placed under arrest, police sources told The Indian Express.
The FIR under which Sreekumar, Bhatt and Setalvad were arrested was registered under IPC Sections 468 (forgery), 471 (using as genuine a forged document or electronic record), 194 (giving or fabricating false evidence with intent to procure conviction of capital offence, 211 (false charge of offence made with intent to injure), 218 (public servant framing incorrect record or writing with intent to save person from punishment or property from forfeiture), and 120 B (criminal conspiracy).
The FIR states that the Supreme Court order “clearly establishes that Sanjiv Bhatt, R B Sreekumar, Teesta Setalvad and others had conspired to abuse the process of law by fabricating false evidence to make several persons to be convicted for an offence that is punishable with capital punishment, thereby committing an offence punishable under Section 194 of the IPC. Furthermore it has been established in the course of the investigation done by the SIT that Sanjiv Bhatt, R B Sreekumar, Teesta and others had instituted false and malicious criminal proceedings against innocent people with the intention to cause injury, an act punishable under Section 211 of the IPC. Sanjiv Bhatt and R B Sreekumar who at the time of their acts of commission and omission were public servants… and they had framed incorrect records with intent to cause injury to several persons, for which they are culpable under Section 218 of the IPC. Sanjiv Bhatt, R B Sreekumar, Teesta Setalvad and others had conspired and prepared false records and had dishonestly used those records as genuine ones with the intention of causing damage and injury to several persons thereby having committed offence inter alia, punishable under Sections 468 and 471 of the IPC.”
The FIR states that the accused would be investigated for “finding out the behind the scene criminal conspiracy and financial and other benefits, inducements for commission of various serious offences in collusion with other individuals, entities and organisations”.
Setalvad (60) claimed that the police team that picked her up had assaulted her inside her house, but this was denied by officials. The Gujarat team, which came in two jeeps, said she was being taken to Ahmedabad for questioning.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Setalvad said: “I was assaulted, there is no warrant and I am being taken. Hence I came to Santa Cruz police to lodge a complaint.’’
Her husband Javed Anand said: “On Saturday morning, we got a call at the office from the CISF headquarters in Noida, asking us whose protection did Teesta have. She earlier had CISF security, which has been pulled out, and now she has Mumbai Police security. Later, two men from Narayan Rane’s security, who stays on the same road, came to ask if Teesta was at home. Later at 3.45 pm, a police posse came to detain her. The posse said they had a warrant and only showed us the FIR.’’
Anand added: “We locked our door and said that we will speak when our lawyers are there… She tried to go into the bathroom and said she will not open till the lawyers came, and one male staffer and a female staffer assaulted her. They also threatened to book us for obstructing the police.” Anand added that being an asthmatic, Setalvad had packed her medicines with her.
Mumbai Police spokesperson DCP Sanjay Latkar said, “A team from the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of the Gujarat Police went to the residence of Setalvad, who lives on Juhu Tara road. The team had gone to her residence in connection with a case registered at the DCB Police Station in Ahmedabad.”
He added that the Santa Cruz police were processing her application.
The portions quoted by the FIR from the SC verdict include: “At the end of the day, it appears to us that a coalesced effort of the disgruntled officials of the State of Gujarat along with others was to create sensation by making revelations which were false to their own knowledge. The falsity of their claims had been fully exposed by the SIT after a thorough investigation. Intriguingly, the present proceedings have been pursued for last 16 years (from submission of complaint dated 8.6.2006 running into 67 pages and then by filing protest petition dated 15.4.2013 running into 514 pages) including with the audacity to question the integrity of every functionary involved in the process of exposing the devious stratagem adopted (to borrow the submission of learned counsel for the SIT), to keep the pot boiling, obviously, for ulterior design. As a matter of fact, all those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law.”
On Friday, the Supreme Court, while rejecting riot survivor Zakia Jafri’s petition and upholding the clean chit given to then CM Modi by the court of the metropoliltan magistrate, had observed, “We find force in the argument of the respondent-State that the testimony of Mr. Sanjiv Bhatt, Mr. Haren Pandya and also of Mr. R.B. Sreekumar was only to sensationalize and politicize the matters in issue, although, replete with falsehood.”
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