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Court slams Gujarat, spares Teesta in mass grave case

Friday April 13, 2012 10:34:51 PM, IANS

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New Delhi: In a breather for social activist Teesta Setalvad, the Supreme Court Friday stayed all the proceedings against her in a 2002 Gujarat riots case involving exhumation of unidentified bodies at Lunawada in the state.

The court said that it was the Gujarat authority that should have been prosecuted for violation of human rights.

An apex court bench of Justice Aftab Alam and Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai told Gujarat government counsel: "You must have read the FIR (first information report). Accused should have been on the other side (state authority). It was the state which should have been prosecuted for the violation of the human rights."

The court said: "We are highly dissatisfied. The case is made out against the authorities. If an holistic view is taken, the FIR should have been against the authorities."

As senior counsel Ravi Shankar Prasad, appearing for Gujarat, told the court that the case was not malafide and sought to argue his point, the court said that he would get full opportunity to present his side of the case when it comes up for hearing next.

In the case, the Gujarat government had filed an FIR against Teesta Setalvad alleging that the mass grave of the people killed in 2002 Gujarat riots was dug up at her behest.

The entire case against Setalvad was based on a statement made by one man, Rais Khan, who was working in her NGO, Committee for Justice and Peace (CJP).

The court said the entire case against Teesta is malafide. "This is a malafide case," the bench observed.

The mass grave digging case refers to an incident Dec 27, 2005, when six people, led by Rais Khan Pathan, the then field co-ordinator of the CJP, dug up 28 unclaimed bodies near the bed of the Panam river at Lunawada in Panchmahal district of Gujarat.

Claiming that the bodies were of the missing victims of the Pandharwada massacre and that they were their relatives, the grave-diggers had then reburied the bodies according to Islamic rites after having conducted DNA tests to identify them.

At the time, Pathan had said he had dug up the bodies at Setalvad's behest.

Setalvad moved the apex court challenging the Gujarat High Court verdict of May 25, 2011, by which social activists got partial relief.

Assailing the high court verdict, Setalvad in her petition has said that high court failed to appreciate that "the entire process of the present case was motivated and malafide primarily to harass her" and no prima facie case was made against her and a first information report (FIR) needed to be quashed.

Recounting the police version, the petition said that 20 people were buried by the Lunnawada Nagarpalika on the government wasteland without any rituals.

Of the 21 people who were killed in Lunawada, the body of one was handed over to the family of the victim and the rest 20 were buried in two batches of eight and 12 people March 2-3, 2002.








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