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New Delhi: The Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing charges of ‘fabrication of evidence’ and ‘conspiracy’ linked to the 2002 riots against activist Teesta Setalvad on Friday, July 15 alleged that she was part of a “larger conspiracy” carried out at the behest of late Congress leader Ahmed Patel.
In its affidavit, the SIT further alleged that the “conspiracy” was carried out to dismiss the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state after the 2002 Godhra riots.
Patel was political advisor to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi at the time. He succumbed to COVID-19 in November 2020.
The Gujarat police on Friday, July 15 also opposed activist Teesta Setalvad’s bail application.
Additional sessions judge D.D. Thakkar took the SIT’s reply on record and posted the hearing on the bail application on Monday, July 18.
Setalvad has been arrested, along with former IPS officers R.B. Sreekumar and Sanjiv Bhatt, for allegedly fabricating evidence to frame innocent people in Gujarat riots cases.
“The political objective of the applicant (Setalvad) while enacting this larger conspiracy was dismissal or destabilisation of the elected government….She obtained illegal financial and other benefits and rewards from rival political party in lieu of her attempts to wrongly implicate innocent persons in Gujarat,” said the SIT’s affidavit.
The Gujarat SIT’s affidavit on Friday submitted the statements of two witnesses taken during the ongoing investigation.
The SIT, citing the statements of a witness, alleged that at Patel’s behest, Setalvad received Rs 30 lakh after Godhra riots in 2002.
Setalvad used to meet the leaders of a “prominent national party in power at that time in Delhi to implicate names of senior leaders of the BJP government in riot cases,” the SIT further claimed.
According to the Indian Express, the affidavit claimed that the “money given to the applicant (Setalvad) was not part of any relief-related corpus as all relief material in the form of food materials and other essential commodities was provided across Gujarat by one Gujarat Relief Committee. The presence of several political leaders at Shahibaug Circuit House during this period of meeting, including that of Late Shri Ahmed Patel, is corroborated by material collecting in the investigation”
It said that they “further reflect that meetings were also held at the New Delhi residence of Late Shri Ahmed Patel where the applicant (Setalvad) and other accused person, Sanjiv Bhatt, had met Shri Ahmed Patel, approximately four months after the riots in clandestine manner.”
In response to the allegations, the Congress said that the “SIT is dancing to the tune of its political master and will sit wherever it is told to.”
The party stated that the “mischievous charges” manufactured against Patel is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “systematic strategy to absolve himself of any responsibility for the communal carnage unleashed when he was chief minister of Gujarat in 2002.”
“The Indian National Congress categorically refutes the mischievous charges manufactured against the late Shri Ahmed Patel. This is part of the Prime Minister’s systematic strategy to absolve himself of any responsibility for the communal carnage unleashed when he was chief minister of Gujarat in 2002. It was his unwillingness and incapacity to control this carnage that had led the-then Prime Minister of India Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee to remind the chief minister of his rajdharma,” Jairam Ramesh, the AICC general secretary in-charge of the party’s communications, said in a statement.
— Congress (@INCIndia) July 16, 2022
“The Prime Minister’s political vendetta machine clearly does not even spare the departed who were his political adversaries. This SIT is dancing to the tune of its political master and will sit wherever it is told to. We know how an earlier SIT chief was rewarded with a diplomatic assignment after he had given a ‘clean chit’ to the chief minister,” he added.
Patel’s daughter Mumtaz Patel told the Indian Express that the SIT’s charges are “really unfortunate.” “All I would like to say is that it’s unfair but very easy to use a deceased person’s name for headlines and sensationalism. He is not here to defend himself and as family, we don’t have any more comments as we were not involved in his work.”
Gujarat Congress spokesperson, Manish Doshi, told Hindustan Times that he was not fully aware of the contents of the affidavit. “We will be able to comment only after fully studying the matter,” he said.
Last month, Teesta Setalvad was arrested a day after the Supreme Court dismissed Zakia Jafri’s plea and upheld the clean chit given to then chief minister Narendra Modi and others in Gujarat riots case.
She, along with Sreekumar and Bhatt, was booked under Indian Penal Code sections 468 (forgery) and 194 (giving or fabricating false evidence with intent to procure conviction for capital offence) among other offences.
(With PTI inputs)