Academics urge SC to dismiss case against Teesta Setalvad
Several academics from across the world have urged the Supreme Court to suo motu dismiss the case against rights defender Teesta Setalvad and other whistleblowers of the 2002 Gujarat riots, the appeal coming ahead of her bail hearing on Monday.
Academics, including British MP and political theorist Bhikhu Parekh and linguist Noam Chomsky, have in a statement asked the apex court to expunge the remarks in an earlier verdict that Gujarat police had cited to justify Setalvad’s June 25 arrest.
The apex court had on June 24, while upholding a special investigation team’s (SIT) clean chit to then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in the 2002 riots, said that those who had knowingly made false allegations in the case “need to be in the dock”.
Citing these remarks, the Gujarat police lodged FIRs against Setalvad, who had supported Zakia Jafri’s petition against the SIT’s findings, and former Gujarat IPS officers R.B. Sreekumar and Sanjiv Bhatt, who had linked Modi to the riots. Zakia’s husband and former MP Ehsan Jafri was among the victims of the massacre in 2002.
The statement by the academics, released by the CPM-backed Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust, raises “three disturbing questions” about the June 24 judgment.
“First, since the petitioners had challenged the findings of the SIT report that gave a clean chit to the Gujarat government for the riots following the Godhra incident, and asked the Supreme Court to order an independent investigation, for the court to dismiss their appeal on the basis of the very same impugned SIT report seems to us to be unjust,” the statement says.
“Second, while dismissing their appeal, the court has quite gratuitously and wholly unfairly attributed ulterior motives to the petitioners…. Third, the court has passed these uncalled-for obiter dicta without even giving a hearing to those against whom these remarks are directed; this sets an unfortunate precedent in jurisprudence.”
It adds: “Apart from the brief period of the Emergency, the Indian Supreme Court has generally played an honourable role in defending the democratic commitments of the country, which is why we are dismayed by the recent tendency discernible in the Zakia Jafri judgment.”
Among the signatories are Indian American anthropologist Arjun Appadurai, American political theorist Wendy Brown, Sanskrit and Indian history scholar Sheldon Pollock, economist Robert Pollin and philosophers Carol Rovane, Charles Taylor, Martha Nussbaum and Akeel Bilgrami.
The June 24 verdict had said: “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…. 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.”
Setalvad and Sreekumar were arrested on June 25. Bhatt was already in jail in another case.
An Ahmedabad court rejected Setalvad’s bail plea and Gujarat High Court scheduled the hearing for September 17, prompting her to approach the apex court for an earlier hearing.