Saturday, April 5, 2014

We Rest of Case (Teesta Setalvad, CJP)

Teesta Setalvad

The latest malicious and vindictive action against me personally and our organization, Citizens for Justice and Peace, by the Gujarat police because of our free Legal Aid work to assist the victims of 2002 for reparation and prosecution. The brief details of the circumstances are as follows:

Over 1,000 innocent persons (official figures, according to a total of the charge sheets the figures are closer to 1,900) mostly Muslims were killed in mob violence and police firing in the state of Gujarat in 2002 as a result of what numerous national and international human rights organizations have described as a "state-sponsored pogrom". The Mrs Zakia Jafri vs Narendra Modi and 59 Others Criminal Case seeks to assign Criminal Culpability and is currently pending in the Gujarat HC.

Our organization was founded in April 2002, to provide Free Legal Aid and other support to ensure justice, relief and reparation to victims-survivors of the worst carnage in India's post-Independence history. Especially because the masterminds of the violence were top state actors, including politicians, police officers and civil servants, the Gujarat administration and police have placed innumerable hurdles in the justice process and sought to implicate human rights defenders, even victim-survivors of the mass crimes in false criminal cases. The state has acted in the same vindictive fashion against a few duty-conscious, impartial police officers who have provided incriminating evidence of state complicity.
Thankfully, the Supreme Court of India, the highest court in the country, has put a 'stay' in a number of such cases against me in the past few years and which are pending final hearing.  Our organisation, Citizens for Justice and Peace (Mumbai, India) and I as its Secretary have been kindly acknowledged to be devoting significant and quality time for the legal struggle for justice. Because of this, our organization and I have been targeted with attempts to implicate us/me in false criminal cases.
I as Secretary of the Organisation have been targeted several times in the past. Each time, the proxy of a Survivors (intimidated or allured into turning hostile) has been used with zealous state backing. In 2004 after the Best Bakery re trial was shifted by the SC to Mumbai, the star witness turned hostile for the second time, the day before she was to appear in the Mazgaon court and made baseless allegations against me personally. At a press conference in Vadodara on 3.11.2004 she accused me of “kidnapping her”, “making false affidavits” etc. An FIR was lodged. That is the first time I had to seek anticipatory bail. The star witness was given Commando protection by the Gujarat Government, housed at the Silver Oak Guest House on the Gandhinagar highway with her brother where MOS Home Amit Shah visited her after the entire staff was given leave. Immediately I approached the Supreme Court for an impartial Inquiry. The Registrar General of the Supreme Court conducted an Inquiry that completely exonerated me and my Organisation. As things got murkier, during the hearings the ruling BJP in Gujarat pulled out all the stops and PN Lekhi (now deceased) a senior advocate, father in law of Meenakshi Lekhi the candidate for Delhi and a hardcore RSS man even made sick accusations of us receiving “Arab money.” Without any proof, baseless only to malign me/us. The depth of their depravity was Lekhi saying in Court that I was Begum Teesta married to Javed through a nikaah ceremony as if that had any relevance or bearing on the case! Never mind the fact that we may have married under the Special Marriages Act not that a person’s personal life is anyone’s business. The motive is simply to sully the public mind and exploit a crude and crass anti-Muslim sentiment. The findings of the Inquiry report (Registrar General BM Gupta) completely exonerating me and my organization can be read at  Finally the star witness was convicted for perjury and had to serve a year’s simple imprisonment. An income tax inquiry found Rs. 18 lakhs  being deposited into her account from “unnamed sources.” The BJP MLA from Vadodara Madhu Srivastava had in a sting operation with Tehelka admitted to luring her. He refused to give his voice sample for sampling and this has been adversely commented upon by the Supreme Court Registrar General in his report.

Again, from September 2010 onwards, 36 months after he was removed from working with our organization (in January 2008) a former employee of the CJP, has been the ace of the proxy war against us by the state of Gujarat’s vendetta against me/us. He approached several forums making false and malicious allegations against me leading to two more criminal cases against me (Pandharwada mass graves case and the Naroda Gam case). In both I sought and was given ABA from Gujarat. When the malafide investigations were not stayed/quashed against us we had to approach the Supreme Court of India that has stayed both malafide proceedings. Meanwhile two trial courts, (Mehsana hearing the Sardarpura massacre case, judgement in 2011) and Naroda Patiya case (judgement in 2012) have exonerated the Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) of any wrong doing (tutoring of witnesses, filing false affidavits etc)/. Again the source of the complaint was the same, former employee. In the cases that he has filed, senior functionaries of the BJP, Ram Jethmalani, Meenakshi Lekhi and Ravishankar Prasad also, among others, have appeared. In the Gujarat high court the nexus between the lawyers appearing for the accused in the trials, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the former employee has also been clear.

 We have, despite these obstacles, soldiered on. Thanks to our efforts a Special Investigation Team (SIT) was appointed in 2008 (March) and even the Mrs Zakia Jafri case was handed over to it (April 2009). To date, until today,  as many as 117 convictions to life imprisonment in 2002 riot cases have resulted. (Except the Bilqees Banio case that was handled by another group in which there were 12 convictions), all the other 112 convictions are the result of the dedicated and committed work of the CJP team. It is no wonder that Gujarat government is using its entire machinery to repress us and at the national level the all powerful RSS and BJP functionaries also echo this campaign.

Now, on January 4, 2014, the crime branch of the Gujarat police have filed a totally false and entirely baseless criminal case against me, my husband, Javed Anand, and even three victims-survivors of the 2002 carnage (Tanvir Jafri, Salim Sandhi and Firoz Gulzar Pathan). The last three have each lost several family members in the 2002 violence. We are maliciously accused of alleged "cheating" and embezzlement of funds collected for support to the victims-survivors. The FIR that was registered on New Year’s Day has been registered against the five accused for defrauding the members of the Gulberg Society of funds meant for the building of the Gulberg Memorial commemorating the state sponsored carnage.It may be in order to recall the facts of the case, especially, since a section of the media is spreading canards that the funds thus raised were used for buying jewellery, wine and such like, and gloating over the possibility of the arrest of Teesta Setalvad and others.
First, the complainant in the case, Feroze Khan, had forged the letterhead of the Gulberg Society to file the complaint. A written complaint to this effect was sent to the Crime Branch, Ahmedabad Police by the office bearers of the Gulberg Society. Second, as early as in March 2013, when the allegations first surfaced, the Centre for Justice and Peace and Sabrang Trust, had provided satisfactory explanation to the Crime Branch and investigation had been dropped. CJP had clarified that at no point had it collected any amount or money or land from any person residing at or claiming to be part of Gulberg society. CJP and Sabrang issued a public affidavit which showed that only Rs 4.5 lakhs had been collected for the proposed museum, of which Rs 50,000 was from foreign sources – but as the land prices spiraled, the dream for a memorial was abandoned. Its audited accounts and resolutions passed in the society proved as much.

Third, months after the investigation had been closed, the complaint was revived and the FIR registered in January 2014, as CJP was preparing for the filing of Smt. Zakia Jafri’s protest petition. It was a blatant move to jeopardize and demoralize the petitioners by the Gujarat government.

Fourth, two of the co-accused in the case are survivors of the terrible massacre in Gulberg Society in February 2002: Salimbhai Sandhi who lost five family members including his son Mohammed; and Firoz Gulzar Pathan who also lost five from his family. The third co-accused is Tanvir Jafri, son of the former MP, Ehsan Jafri, who was also hacked and burnt to death in the massacre.
 We would also like take this opportunity to state that the activities of both the CJP and Sabrang trust are transparent and legitimate, our accounts audited and filed with the requisite authorities (the Charity Commissioner, Mumbai, the Income tax authorities and the FCRA authorities, government of India). The bulk of expenses of the CJP have to do with legal aid and expenses and by clandestinely extracting our personal expenses from banks which have not been spent for from trust funds (who legally had no business to share these details with the Gujarat police), the filthy minds controlling the Crime Branch Ahmedabad are simply trying to prejudice the public mind. 
The immediate cause of this vindictive action is as follows: Mrs. Zakia Jafri, a survivor of the 2002 violence, whose husband and other relatives were mercilessly butchered, has alleged that the mass crimes of 2002 were the result of a conspiracy at the very top, involving Gujarat's chief minister, Mr. Modi along with 59 other top politicians, police officers and civil servants. In 2009, the Supreme Court of India appointed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate the charges made by Mrs. Jafri. In its 'Final/Closure Report' filed before a magistrate's court (the lowest rung of the judicial system in India), the SIT claimed that the allegations made by Mrs. Jafri could not be substantiated. It may be noted, that a senior lawyer, Mr. Raju Ramachandran, who was appointed by the Supreme Court to make an independent assessment of the evidence collected by the SIT, had made a contradictory recommendation. Mr. Ramachandran had concluded that there was prima facie evidence for the prosecution of Mr. Modi on a number of charges. Our organization, which has been providing Legal Aid to Mrs. Jafri throughout her petition, filed a 'Protest Petition' in the Gujarat magistrate's court, challenging the "clean chit" given by the SIT to Mr. Modi and others. On December 26, 2013, the magistrate's court in Gujarat ruled in favor of the SIT's 'Closure Report'. Mrs. Jafri however, has the legal right to appeal before the higher judiciary within 3 months (that is, by March 26, 2014). The primary purpose of the false and malicious case filed against us was precisely to block Mrs. Jafri's decision to file an appeal with the assistance of our legal team, if not to intimidate us into not pursuing the matter any further. It may be noted that one of the persons accused in the alleged cheating case is Mr. Tanvir Jafri, son of Mrs. Jafri. It is an all-out, desperate and vicious tactic to harass the Jafri family into submission.
Because of the above, our organization and I have been completely tied down since early January 2014. In an attempt to totally paralyze the organization, in addition to the filing of a false criminal case, around January 21, 2014 the Gujarat crime branch wrote to the banks in Mumbai asking them to "seize the accounts of our organization as well as the personal accounts of my husband (who is also a Trustee of Citizens for Justice and Peace). Shockingly, the banks acted on the Crime Branches letter, despite this being a totally illegal instruction: only the court's in India have the power to direct such freezing of accounts.  No procedure of law has been followed. We have had to find ways and means of keeping the organization running despite the freezing of our accounts for nearly two months now.
It was under these circumstances, and overcoming all odds that we worked day and night to file the Mrs Jafri's appeal on March 15, 2014. The first hearing took place on March 20, 2014 and now the matter is scheduled to be heard on April 11, 2014.
We had moved for ABA in this last vicious case. The Bombay High Court had given us protection until February 28 and the Supreme Court until March 31,2014.  In an unfortunate decision, the Sessions Court , Ahmedabad rejected the ABA of all five of us accused and we moved the Gujarat High Court for ABA. The Court has extended us protection until April 23, 2014. It is clear that the state of Gujarat with no evidence in hand is simply using the threat of arrest to harass and intimidate us. We are hopeful that this will not happen. We had also moved the Bombay High Court in January 2014 for quashing the FIR and in early February 2014 for de-freezing of our accounts. Inexplicably, after three months, the Bombay HC rejected our petition strictly on jurisdiction. We will now approach the Supreme Court since the writ of Article 226 and 229 is much wider and we believe that the Bombay High Court does have jurisdiction.
Meanwhile, it is a matter of some relief to us that opposition political parties, prominent citizens of India including two retired judges of the Supreme Court and a large number of social activists across the country, have rallied behind our organization issued statements and held protest demonstrations, demanding immediate withdrawal of the baseless case against us to obstruct the process of justice. These statements and reports may all be accessed on the Home Page (middle panel) of our website,
Teesta Setalvad
Citizens for Justice and Peace

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