'Unfairly Denied Bail': Noam Chomsky, Scholars Urge SC To Free Teesta Setalvad

A sessions court in Ahmedabad denied bail to activist Teesta Setalvad and former DGP RB Sreekumar on 30 July.

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Eleven esteemed academicians and scholars from around the world on Friday, 19 August, said in a statement that the Supreme Court “gratuitously and wholly unfairly” attributed ulterior motives to the petitioners – activist-journalist Teesta Setalvad and former Gujarat police chief RB Sreekumar – in the Zakia Jafri case.

They urged the Supreme Court to take suo motu notice of the fallout of its judgment in the case, to “expunge” the derogatory remarks made in court and dismiss the cases against the petitioners based on these remarks.

The signatories are: Noam Chomsky, Bhiku Parekh, Arjun Appadurai, Wendy Brown, Sheldon Pollock, Carol Rovane, Charles Taylor, Martha Nussbaum, Robert Pollin, Akeel Bilgrami, and Gerald Epstein.

The statement said:

"…while dismissing their appeal, the court has quite gratuitously and wholly unfairly attributed ulterior motives to the petitioners. This has even emboldened the executive to arrest co-petitioner Teesta Setalvad, along with RB Sreekumar, both of whom have also been denied bail."

It added, “If any patient, prolonged, peaceful, and entirely legitimate pursuit of justice through the due process, is called ‘keeping the pot boiling,’ then this remark, quite apart from being offensive, discourages people from approaching the court on any matter relating to excesses or dereliction on the part of the executive.”

A sessions court in Ahmedabad on Saturday, 30 July, denied bail to Teesta Setalvad and RB Sreekumar in a case of allegedly fabricating evidence related to the 2002 riots in Gujarat.


Court’s Dismissal of Their Appeal Is ‘Unjust'

The scholars said in the statement that since Zakia Jafri and Setalvad had challenged the SIT report and had sought an independent investigation, it was unjust on the part of the Supreme Court to dismiss the petition “on the basis of the very same impugned SIT report.”

The signatories said, “…since the petitioners had challenged the findings of the SIT report that gave a clean chit to the Gujarat government for the riots following the Godhra incident, and asked the Supreme Court to order an independent investigation, for the Court to dismiss their appeal on the basis of the very same impugned SIT report is unjust.”

They added that the Supreme Court passed the remarks without allowing a hearing to those against whom the comments were directed and added that this sets an “unfortunate precedent.”

The signatories pointed out that apart from the Emergency period, the Supreme Court has played an “honourable role in defending the democratic commitments of the country” and stated that they were “dismayed by the recent tendency discernible in the Zakia Jafri judgement.”

“We urge the Supreme Court to take suo motu notice of the fall-out of the judgment in this case, expunge the derogatory remarks contained in it, and to dismiss the cases against those who have been arrested on the strength of these remarks,” the statement further said.

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