Apex court pulls up Teesta Setalvad for letters to UN panel

Thursday, January 20, 2011

NEW DELHI - The Supreme Court Thursday pulled up the convenor of NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace, Teesta Setalvad, for sending to the UN Human Rights Commission the communications addressed to the special investigating team (SIT) probing the 2002 Gujarat riots.

The SIT, headed by former CBI director R.K. Raghavan, was set up by the apex court to investigate the Godhra train carnage and the communal riots that followed.

As many as 69 people lost their lives in the communal riots at Gulbarg Society in Ahmedabad Feb 28, 2002, a day after a coach of a train burnt in the Godhra railway station, in which 58 people lost their lives.

The special bench of Justice D.K. Jain, Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Aftab Alam Thursday said: “We don’t appreciate a letter being sent to a foreign country. We can’t approve of it.”

When counsel Kamini Jaiswal, appearing for Setalvad, told the court that the international organisation was not a funding agency but monitors human rights violations in countries the world over, the court observed: “This shows you have more confidence in that organisation than us.”

The court went on to chide Setalvad: “Tomorrow the proceedings of this court will be reported to that organisation.”

What police commissioner does or joint police commissioner does will also be reported to the international body, the court said.

“We are capable of doing our work. We dont want to be guided, the court said, adding if you have any grievance, you can come to us. We are here.

The court expressed its anguish in the wake of the revelation that the letters that Setalvad was writing to Raghavan were also being forwarded to the UN agency.

The court closed the matter after Jaiswal told the court that in future Setalvad would not forward any such communication to the UN organisation.

The court was earlier given a detailed report by Raghavan on his team’s investigation into the Gulberg Society massacre in the post-Godhra Gujarat riots, in which former Congress MP Ehsan Jaffrey was also killed.

The report was submitted in a sealed cover. The apex court directed the SIT’s probe into the Gulberg massacre on a petition by the former MP’s widow Zakia Jaffrey.

The court said that it was a lengthy note. There are many observations. You have analysed the evidence. We also need to go through it.

The court was told that trial court Judge B.U. Joshi, who was hearing the case related to the Gulberg massacre, has been transferred and now the matter will be heard by another trial court judge.

The judges were told that trial court Judge Jyotsnaben Yagnik hearing the Naroda Patiya case - in which 95 people were killed during the riots - has been transferred to Himmatnagar.

The court was told by court-appointed senior counsel Harish Salve that she should be retained till the completion of the trial.

The court said that SIT could approach the chief justice of the Gujarat High Court with a request. The matter will come up for further hearing March 3.

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