Apex Court pulls up Modi for frivolous case against activist


New Delhi : The Supreme Court Tuesday pulled up the Gujarat government for filing a frivolous police complaint against social activist Teesta Setalvad in the 2002 riots case for digging up unidentified bodies buried at Lunawada in the state.

Support TwoCircles

A bench of Justice Aftab Alam and Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai told Gujarat government counsel Pradip K. Ghosh that these kind of cases do not bring any credit to the state government.

“This case is 100 percent frivolous,” the court told him.

Justice Alam asked the Gujarat government’s standing counsel Hemantika Wahi to go through the first information report (FIR).

The court also asked Ghosh to read the FIR filed against Setalvad, the Committee for Justice and Peace (CJP) secretary, dispassionately and give his opinion as an officer of the court.

As Gujarat government counsel Ghosh wanted the matter to be remitted back to the high court, Justice Alam told him: “We are not remitting the matter to the high court.”

The court also asked Ghosh to advise his client not to proceed in such matters.

The court’s observations came in the course of a hearing of Setalvad’s petition in which she sought the FIR be quashed. In the FIR, along with others she has been named as an accused for unauthorisedly digging up the graves of unidentified bodies.

Appearing for Setalvad, counsel Aparna Bhatt told the court that though the apex court suspended the proceedings against her, police were still recording statements of the people in the case.

Assailing the high court verdict of May 25, 2011, which gave Setalvad only partial relief, her petition said the high court failed to appreciate that “the entire process of the present case was motivated and malafide and primarily to harass her”. It said no prima facie case was made against her and the FIR needed to be quashed.

A total of 21 people — all of them Muslims and residents of Pandharwada town in Panchmahal district — were reported to have been killed March 1, 2002, during the riots.

Of the 21, the body of one was handed over to the family and the rest 20 were buried in two lots of eight and 12 people on March 2 and 3, 2002, respectively.

According to the petition, the 20 people were buried by the Lunnawada municipality on the government wasteland without any rituals or rites and in the same clothes that they were wearing when killed.

The mass grave digging case refers to an incident Dec 27, 2005, when six people, led by Rais Khan Pathan, the then field co-ordinator of the CJP, dug up the unclaimed bodies there.

Claiming that the bodies were of the missing victims of the Pandharwada massacre and that they were their relatives, the group then reburied the bodies according to Islamic rites after having conducted DNA tests to identify them.

At the time, Pathan had said that he had dug up the graves at Setalvad’s behest.

The matter will now come up for hearing on March 23, 2012.