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'Chilling Message': Concerned Citizens Say SC Must Clarify It Did Not Intend Setalvad's Arrest

"It appears that a petitioner or a witness, who diligently pursues a cause in the courts, runs a risk of being 'put in the dock' if the court deems the cause as devoid of merits," the signatories of a letter to the CJI said.

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New Delhi: More than 300 concerned citizens have written to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) N.V. Ramana, saying that the arrest of activist Teesta Setalvad and R.B. Sreekumar will have a “chilling message for the practice of law in the courts and for the rule of law in the country”.

The activist and the former Gujarat police officer were arrested by the Gujarat anti-terrorism squad (ATS) on June 25, a day after the Supreme Court turned down an appeal by Zakia Jafri and Setalvad challenging a lower court’s refusal to file a case against Narendra Modi and others for their alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat anti-Muslim violence.

In the letter, the signatories said, “It appears that a petitioner or a witness, who diligently pursues a cause in the courts, runs a risk of being ‘put in the dock’ if the court deems the cause as devoid of merits.”

Among the signatories are former Patna high court judge Anjana Prakash, lawyer K.S. Chauhan, former Allahabad high court judge Amar Saran, Avani Bansal, Anand Grover, Indira Jaising, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Ramachandra Guha, Sanjay Hegde, Navroz Seervai, Anjana Mishra, Manoj Kumar Jha and Kavita Krishnan.

This was in reference to the portion of the SC judgment, which said “disgruntled officials of the State of Gujarat along with others” were involved in “abuse of process” and need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with the law.

The FIR against Setalvad, Sreekumar and Sanjiv Bhatt refers to this portion of judgment, accusing them of a conspiracy to send innocent persons to jail by misleading the SIT that was formed to investigate the cases of violence.

“We refuse to believe that our Supreme Court really intended, to sanction in advance, the course of retribution that the current government has chosen to pursue. Even during the emergency, the Supreme Court did not imprison those who sought to use legal processes, by appealing to it. The court may have failed to stand up for the citizen in ADM Jabalpur, but it did not kick down those who chose to fight for citizens’ causes in court.”

“We call upon the court, to suo-motu clarify that the above-quoted paragraph in its judgment, was not intended to have any adverse consequences whatsoever. The absence of such clarification may lead to further consequences when bail is sought, by those whom we believe to have been unjustly imprisoned,” the signatories said.

The full letter, and the list of signatories, is reproduced below.

§

29th June 2022

To,
The Chief Justice of India,
Supreme Court of India.

SUBJECT: SUPREME COURT SHOULD SUO MOTU CLARIFY THAT ITS JUDGMENT IN THE ZAKIA JAFFREY CASE WAS NOT INTENDED TO HAVE ANY ADVERSE CONSEQUENCES WHATSOEVER ON TEESTA SETALVAD, R.B. SREEKUMAR, AND OTHERS.

We the undersigned persons committed to the rule of law, express our deep distress at the imprisonment yesterday of Teesta Setalvad, RB Sreekumar, and others. They are being hounded because they chose to pursue justice for the over 2000 people who were killed in Gujarat in February 2002.

We must express our agony that the state police justify the arrests on the basis of the Supreme Court’s judgment dated 24th June 2022, in the Zakia Jaffrey case.

The Supreme Court judgment in pertinent part reads:

“… 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. The falsity of their claims had been fully exposed by the SIT after a thorough investigation. Intriguingly, the present proceedings have been pursued for last 16 years (from submission of complaint dated 8.6.2006 running into 67 pages and then by filing protest petition dated 15.4.2013 running into 514 pages) including with the audacity to question the integrity of every functionary involved in the process of exposing the devious stratagem adopted (to borrow the submission of learned counsel for the SIT), to keep the pot boiling, obviously, for ulterior design. 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.” [Emphasis supplied]

The said paragraph, in our view, was not intended to have any legal consequence whatsoever. It is settled law, that any adverse action against a person can be commenced only after giving due notice. The court has neither issued notice of perjury nor contempt, to anyone in these proceedings. In fact, the court has issued no specific notice whatsoever, warning of any adverse consequences.

We are perplexed by the statement, “Intriguingly, the present proceedings have been pursued for last 16 years.” The Supreme Court itself ordered an investigation by a Special Investigation Team. After the SIT report, the court also requested an amicus curiae to submit a report in the matter. Then the court in 2013, sent both reports of the SIT and the Amicus curiae, to the magistrate to proceed further in accordance with the law. The matter then traveled up the appellate process till this judgment in 2022. The petitioners or people assisting them, can in no way be blamed for the passage of time, in the law’s delay.

Subsequent to the Jaffri judgment, in a media interview, the home minister of the country, chose to comment on the court’s observations, in a manner calculated to cause arrests by the Gujarat police.

This sequence of events has sent a chilling message for the practice of law in the courts and for the rule of law in the country. It appears that a petitioner or a witness, who diligently pursues a cause in the courts, runs a risk of being “put in the dock” if the court deems the cause as devoid of merits.

We refuse to believe that our Supreme Court really intended, to sanction in advance, the course of retribution that the current government has chosen to pursue. Even during the emergency, the Supreme Court did not imprison those who sought to use legal processes, by appealing to it. The court may have failed to stand up for the citizen in ADM Jabalpur, but it did not kick down those who chose to fight for citizens’ causes in court.

We call upon the court, to suo-motu clarify that the above-quoted paragraph in its judgment, was not intended to have any adverse consequences whatsoever. The absence of such clarification may lead to further consequences when bail is sought, by those whom we believe to have been unjustly imprisoned.

Signed by:
Anjana Prakash
Dr K S Chauhan Senior Advocate
Justice Amar Saran (Retd), Sr Adv
Aspi Chinoy
Avani Bansal
Anand Grover
Indira Jaising
Paranjoy Guha Thakurta
Ramachandra Guha
Sanjay Hegde
Navroz Seervai
Anjana Mishra
Tushar Gandhi
Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi
Capt Mir Afzal Hussain (Rtd)
Arvind Narrain
Prof. Manoj Kumar Jha
Kavita Krishnan
Ravi Nair
Chander Uday Singh
Nitya Ramakrishnan
Sanjay Singhvi
Raj Gandhi
Gayatri Singh Sr Advocate
Syed Naqvi
Saif Mahmood
Adv. Shivani Sanghavi
Purnima Upadhyay
Sitwat Nabi
Radha Kumar
Shweta Azad
Ajay Kumar
Anas Tanwir
Shantha Sinha
Nandita Narain
Hindal Tyabji
Dheeraj Dheeraj
Madhu Bhaduri
Hamza Lakdawala
Saanya
Arundhati Savadatti
V.Venkatesan
Ujjaini Chatterji
Tariq Adeeb
Advocate Arshad Shaikh
Lata Krishnamurti
Lara Jesani
Amit Bhaduri
R. Rajagopal
Mayura Priyan
Amitabha Pande
Romar Correa
Vivek Sharma
Veena Johari
Aneesh Correa
Prabir Kc
Shakeel Ur Rahman
Md Shahid Anwar
Reena Mohan
Gautam Mukhopadhaya
Gurbir Singh
Tamanna Meghrajani
Ronita Bhattacharya Bector
Meenaz Kakalia
Mohammad Abdi
Deepali Kasul
Prakriti Shah
Sreeram VG
Abhisht Hela
Pyoli
Manjula
Amita
Saurabh Chauhan
Dhruv Mankad
Amala Popuri
Subhasis Bandyopadhyay
Khalida Parveen
Nadeem Shaikh
K Sudha
Dimple
Ravi Sagar
S. Jeevan Kumar
S. M. T. Naqvi
Varsha Bhargavi
Shivani
A M Khan
Rahil Fazelbhoy
Imran
Malini Subramaniam
Charmaine
Arun
Nisha Biswas
Indira Hirway
Alla Bakash
N Ramesh
Sumitra
Somara Rahul
M. R. Nandan
Rama Melkote
Shivakumari
Vakasha Sachdev
P. Rajasekhara Reddy
Jagdeep Chhokar
Siva Lakshmi
Khalid Hasan
Sivanagireddy
Girija Paidimarri
Katepogu Ratnam Yesepu
Sagar Dhara
Latha LR
Alwyn D’souza
Anurag Katarki
Devika S
Vigneshwar Ramasubramanian
Ravi Prakash
Gauravjeet Singh Narwan
Janardan Sahai
Subhashini Ali
Dr. V. Suresh
Divya Dwivedi
Meena Srivastava
Jacqueline
Rosamma Thomas
Charu Govindan
Devdatta Uchil
Navjot Altaf
S Subramanian
Revuru Nagesh
Mathew John
Rajameenakshi
Tanveer Khan
Thomas Franco
Amanulla Khan
Susan Abraham
Anuradha
Jagannath La
Arti Raghavan
Sanjay Jha
Sharaf Sabri
Anna Mathew
Sumathy Natarajan
Bamadev Mishra
Amritananda Chakravorty
Frazer Mascarenhas
Veena Gowda
Anubha Rastogi
Nilima Dutta
Nikhil
Dr. Suresh Khairnar
Prashant Kothadiya
Cynthia Ghodke
Sanjay Lakade
Vivan Gandhi
Charu Satam
Dev Desai
Ibad Mushtaq
Vinayak Joshi
Avinash Gokhale
Madhukar Dube
Amrita Johri
Kasturi Gandhi
Suvarnareha Jadhav
Tulshidas Kaldate
Nafisa Lal
Vijay Tambe
Shashikant Sadashiv Patil
Jitendra Kumar
Preeti Reddy
Ujwala Mehendale
Chandrashekhar Chavan
Supriya Daniel
Shamsul Islam
Anil Thakur
K. Arun
Lal Bahadur Singh
Abdul Mabood
Sujata Paul
Jaswant
Samar Abbas Naqvi
Pankaj Bisht
Mahipal
Malathi Maithri
Prateeksha Sharma
JPS Virdi
Manish Deshpande
Indranee Dutta
Biswaroop Chatterjee
Jaipal Singh
Madhumanjari Chakravorty
Sanjeev Ahuja
Roshmi Goswami
Roop Rekha Verma
Ramakant Pathak
Abdussalam Puthige
Arunabha Adhikari
Sharda Dixit
Abdul Aziz
Pritpal Singh
Khasim Ahmed
Harcharan Singh Chahal
Majhel Singh Kalkat
Abdulrahman
Deepak Goswami
Suhail
Ahmed Muneer
Abdul Khadir
Abdul Hakeem
Zakria
NT Abroo
Muhammed Ashkar
Rahamath Tarikere
Tapas
Aftab
Attakkattil Siddik
Sudesh M R
Suhail
Mohammad Iqbal
Nand Singh Mehta
Ansar Moideen
Abdul Gafoor
Anas
Shameera
Jabiulla B S
Feroze Mithiborwala
Afaque Azad
Subhasish Mukherjee
K. P. Suresha
Jafar
Kiran Kumar
Gurnam Singh
Nishikant Tharthare
Tanveer Ahmed
Ravi Kanwar
Ajay Jadhav Vijay Jadhav
Harbans Mukhia
Jagjit Singh
Amit Jaiswal
Baldev Singh Shergill
Muniza Khan
Luqman
R Nagesh Aralakuppe
Lenin Raghuvanshi
N Manu Chakravarthy
M S Baath
Dr Geraldine Sanjay
Wasi Haider
John Dayal
Mohammad Moosa Azmi
Mohammed Irshan
Hyder
R Doraiswamy
Mohammed M Masood
Dr Ashraf Malik
Khursheed Ahmed
Syed Ali Akbar
Sundesha Olledu
Narasimha Gowda D
Nuzhat Kazmi
Bhoj Raj Gupta
Syed Rahatul Karim.
Shalu Nigam
Sujata Madhok
Radha Manohar
Ashok Choudhary
T. S. Purushothaman
A.S. Natataj
Yash Pal
N. Jayaram
Kavita Srivastava
Nageena Begum
Roma
Vijayabhoopathy
Promukh Bhattacharya
Mohammad Siddiqi
Aditi Mehta
Brinelle D’souza
Pradip Kumar Karmakar
Mathew S Thomas
R. Kaleem Ullah
Gopi Pakkirisamy
Syed Fareed Ahmed
Vasanthi Raman
R.Rajendiran
Venkatesh
Afthab Ellath
Santanu Mukherjee
Sukhjit Singh
Suman Raj
Manorama Sharma
Sirimane Nagaraj
Jawarimal Parakh
Nat Committee Iftu Aparna
Poonam Kaushik
Dinesh Abrol
V Sridhar
Mahendra Mishra
Arvind Kurian Abraham
Basawa Prasad Kunale
Veena Shatrugna
Tariq Hameed
Sanjeev Narrain
Prasad Chacko
Clifton D’ Rozario
A P Josy