With a section of civil society criticizing the Supreme Court’s denunciation of activist Teesta Setalvad, a group of former judges and bureaucrats on Tuesday slammed their remarks as ”politically motivated” and supported a criminal case against her. In a statement, the group of 190 former judges and bureaucrats besides veterans said the registration of an FIR against the Gujarat riot case activist– who is now under arrest — and others is strictly by the law and the accused can always take recourse to judicial remedies.
”A politically motivated section of civil society has made attempts to cast aspersions on the integrity of the judiciary at large and in this case, this section has attempted to pressure the judiciary to expunge remarks which are unfavorable to Setalvad and the two guilty ex-IPS officers who have fabricated evidence,” it said.
The Supreme Court acted in a matter which was within its jurisdiction and any action for modification of its proceedings must take the form of a regular motion and even as this section of civil society pretends that citizens are disturbed and dismayed with the court’s order, it said. The law-abiding citizens are disturbed and dismayed at the attempt to disrupt the rule of law, the statement from 13 retired judges, 90 formed bureaucrats, and 87 ex-armed forces officers said.
Former high court judges R S Rathore, S N Dhingra, and M C Garg, former IPS officers Sanjeev Tripathi, Sudhir Kumar, B S Bassi, and Karnal Singh, former IAS officers G Prasanna Kumar and Prema Chandra, and Lt Gen (retired) V K Chaturvedi are among the signatories to the statement titled ”Interference in judiciary not acceptable”.
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Several human rights groups and civil society members had criticized the Supreme Court’s comments against Setalvad and others, leading to the Gujarat Police registering a case and arresting her and former state DGP R B Sreekumar. The Supreme Court had last month upheld the Special Investigation Team’s (SIT) clean chit to then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and 63 others in the 2002 riots in the state and dismissed a plea by slain Congress leader Ehsan Jafri’s wife Zakia Jafri.
The court had also slammed Setalvad, who had been pursuing the case, and ”disgruntled” officials of Gujarat among others for making revelations that, it said, were false to their knowledge. It was done to keep the pot boiling, and such people need to be in the dock, it had said. The signatories of this letter described themselves as law-abiding citizens having faith in the legal system and urges the apex court to not expunge any of its remarks in the case or be intimidated by the ”tactics of such institutional disruptors”.
Rather, the court should allow the law to take its course and uphold its majesty and dignity by ensuring that the public confidence in the judicial system stays intact, it said. The accused can always take resort to the provisions of the law and the Constitution, it said. ”There is no prejudice to anyone given the robust judicial system in the country. Neither Teesta Setalvad nor R B Sri Kumar nor Sanjiv Bhatt can selectively use court proceedings against others and not face the process of law themselves,” it added. The whole world knows, the group of retired judges and officials noted, and it was also recorded in various Supreme Court orders that it was on Setalvad’s request that the court constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT). The members of the SIT were also selected by the court, and its entire probe was conducted under direct judicial monitoring and supervision. ”It is this SIT that has found Setalvad and her accomplices involved in various crimes. The Supreme Court has, therefore, rightly observed in its judgment what is observed. There must be accountability for malicious prosecution and fabrication of evidence,” the statement said.