In a recent court hearing on January 1, the Gujarat High Court, presided over by Justice Sandeep Bhatt, indicated its reluctance to provide any reprieve to the controversial ‘activist’ Teesta Setalvad in the 2005 mass grave digging case. Teesta Setalvad, represented by Advocate Yogesh Ravani, claimed political victimisation, but Justice Bhatt noted, “After going through the record, I am not inclined. You have to satisfy (the court).” The case has been adjourned until January 9, 2023.
The matter was listed before Justice Sandeep Bhatt who wondered “why are such dead horses required to be pulled?” Justice Bhatt further said, “After going through the record, I’m not inclined, prima facie, you have to satisfy (the court).”
In December 2005, reports surfaced about a mass grave allegedly containing human remains of 21 Gujarat riot victims being dug up along a riverbank in Lunawada village, Panchmahal district. Teesta Setalvad’s NGO, Citizens for Justice and Peace, was linked to the discovery, orchestrated by Rais Khan, an activist associated with the organisation. The incident led to an FIR against twelve individuals, including Khan and Setalvad, for unlawfully exhuming remains from the “official” burial place.
The controversy surrounding the mass grave took a national turn when Teesta Setalvad disclosed the finding on CNN IBN, leading to sensationalism across the country. The National Human Rights Commission sought a report from the state government following the revelation. Khan claimed the exhumation occurred at Setalvad’s direction, prompting her inclusion in the FIR.
Teesta Setalvad filed a petition in the case in 2017, but her involvement in manufacturing the narrative of mass graves has raised questions. Affidavits from journalists present during the exhumation suggest that Setalvad manipulated facts to create a false narrative, implying the Gujarat government’s involvement in the mass burial of religious minority group members. The recent court hearing suggests that Teesta Setalvad may not find relief in this long-standing legal battle.
In 2006, the Gujarat Police had filed a case against Teesta Setalvad under multiple sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) including 192, 193 for fabricating false evidence, 201 for causing the disappearance of evidence, 120B for criminal conspiracy, 295A for deliberate and malicious acts aimed at offending religious sentiments by insulting its religion or religious beliefs, 114 for abetment and 297 for trespassing on burial grounds.
Teesta’s counsel Advocate Kalpesh N Shastri maintained that no offence was made out against her and that the case is politically motivated.
The hearing of the case has now been adjourned till January 9.