The Congress reacted cautiously on Saturday to the arrest of retired Gujarat DGP R B Sreekumar and Mumbai-based activist Teesta Setalvad by the Gujarat police, expressing hope and trust that due process would be followed.
The Left parties, on the other hand, questioned their arrests, which came a day after the Supreme Court upheld the clean chit by the SIT to then chief minister Narendra Modi in the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Sreekumar’s role had been called into question by the apex court. Setalvad had backed the petitioner in the case, Zakia Jafri. The two were held on charges of criminal conspiracy, forgery and other Sections of the Indian Penal Code on the basis of a first information report lodged with the DCB by Inspector Darshansinh Barad, which quotes extensively from the court order.
“We have heard of the arrest. It appears to be in relation to alleged offences of forgery and fabrication arising out of events that took place between the years immediately following 2002, even though the FIR registered appears to be dated June 25th, 2022. We hope and trust that proper and full due process of law will be followed meticulously,” senior Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi told The Indian Express. “Furthermore, it stands to reason that the Congress as a political party cannot comment on the merits of a case with which it has no connection,” he added.
The CPM strongly condemned the arrest of Setalvad, calling her an “indefatigable defender of human rights”. It said that her arrest by the Gujarat police was on “dubious grounds citing the recent judgment of the Supreme Court” and demanded her release and withdrawal of what it called “false charges” against her.
“Stop persecution and prosecution of relentless champions of civil liberties and human rights. Withdraw false charges and release,” CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury tweeted.
His CPI counterpart, D Raja, said Setalvad had been relentlessly struggling to get justice for the victims of the Gujarat riots.
“Her detention by the ATS hours after home minister (Amit Shah) expressed his displeasure at Teesta’s work is highly questionable. She should be released. Harassment of human rights defenders should stop,” he said.
While the Congress was cautious on their arrests, it hit out at the BJP for celebrating the verdict. Singhvi said Supreme Court judgments should never be politicised. “The Supreme Court simply upheld the SIT [decision], which found no conspiracy and that violence was a spontaneous reaction. Reading political jumlas and unconnected clean chits into the Supreme Court verdict is misleading. Don’t forget that many were convicted of murder in the post-Godhra riots. Individual culpability was established. The SC only rules out conspiracy, or statements by the PM in the presence of certain police officers found to be absent. That must be respected as the apex court’s order. No more, no less,” Singhvi said.
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