Ahmedabad/Mumbai, April 12: Within hours of the Supreme Court ruling for retrial in the Best Bakery case, there was high drama at a Jesuit institution in Memnagar, where activist Teesta Setalvad — whose organisation was the driving force behind the retrial demand — was present for a meeting.
Two men, moving around the meeting venue suspiciously, approached Father Cedric Prakash at Prashant, the Jesuit-run institution, around 12.30 pm. They told him they wanted to meet Teesta. “Luckily, Teesta’s colleague Rais Khan Pathan identified them as Atul Vaidya and Bharat Teli, two accused in another riot case (at Gulbarg Society) and we alerted the police,” Father Cedric said.
A first information report was immediately filed with the Satellite police, stating that the two men, along with 15 more, had snooped into the meeting venue separately and were probably there to create trouble and harm Teesta and fellow activists of the NGO, Citizens for Justice and Peace.
When Father Cedric asked the duo why they wanted to meet the social activist, they said they wanted to “ask her why she was so dead against Hindus and was maligning the state of Gujarat”, the Jesuit priest added.
Teesta, who was not given the usual security during her visit to Gujarat, spoke to director-general of police A. K. Bhargav. Later, a batch of policemen arrived on the spot, but the men lingered till the cops came. They left, but not before threatening the priest that they would “see him later”.
Speaking later on the Supreme Court judgment for the bakery case retrial in Maharashtra, Teesta said she was “very happy and satisfied”.
“This is the rarest of rare occasions when a riot case has been transferred outside the state. It is a moral victory for us as the apex court has set aside the Gujarat High Court strictures against activists, including me.” Terming the judgment “historic”, Teesta said it has given her organisation “tremendous hope”.
She said she was now hopeful that the apex court may decide in favour of transferring 11 other Gujarat riot cases for which the Citizens for Justice and Peace has filed petitions.
Activist Javed Anand, a member of Teesta’s NGO, said the judgment could set a precedent in the other riot cases. The Supreme Court hearing on the cases, including those involving the riots at Gulbarg Society and Naroda-Patia, is on April 21.
Briefing reporters on the judgment, Teesta said the ruling was apparently a long one. “From what I have learnt from our lawyers in Delhi, it is a speaking judgment, powerfully worded on the state of affairs in Gujarat.”
She, however, declined to go into the judgment details, saying she was yet to see a copy of it. “We have to wait to see how the transfer of cases takes effect. We had sought the transfer under provisions 173 (8) of the CrPC. Now, possibly, it should restart from scratch with the SC issuing a proviso to the DGP of Maharashtra to reinvestigate the case.”
New public prosecutors would have to be appointed and the victims would have a watching advocate during the retrial, she said.
The activist emphasised it would be seen to that the Gujarat government bore the costs for witnesses if they had to travel out of Gujarat to depose. But she parried queries on what effect the judgment might have on the Lok Sabha elections in Gujarat on April 20. “All I can say is there are some Hindus who would like to see justice being done to the victims of riots.”
Asked if chief minister Narendra Modi should step down, Teesta said her stand on Modi was clear and she would not like to repeat it. “But legally speaking, we hope this judgment would be a trend-setter so far as the Gujarat riot cases go,” she added.
In Mumbai, poet and film lyricist Javed Akhtar, who had also pressed for a retrial, said the ruling gave more strength to his “faith that justice and secularism can still be availed of in this country”.
“We salute the Supreme Court,” he said.
Advertising guru Alyque Padamsee, who, too, was part of the NGO’s initiative like Akhtar, said: “It means that those with parochial, communal tendencies would have to think twice before embarking on a route,” he said.