A group of noted former civil servants on Wednesday sought the withdrawal of the Supreme Court's "gratuitous observations" against activist Teesta Setalvad and others during a verdict that the reaffirmed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's exoneration in the 2002 Gujarat riots.
In an 'open letter', they also asked the top court to issue a clarification to the effect that it was not their intention that Ms Setalvad, who was detained a day after the verdict and arrested the next day by the Gujarat police for alleged fabrication of evidence with regard to the riot cases, should face arrest. They urged the Supreme Court to order her unconditional release.
"Every day of silence lowers the prestige of the court and raises questions about its determination to uphold a core precept of the Constitution: safeguarding the basic right to life and liberty against questionable actions of the state," said the open statement signed by 92 former civil servants.
The signatories include former Union Home Secretary G K Pillai, former Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, ex-Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, former Health Secretary K Sujatha Rao, ex-IPS officer A S Dulat and former IAS officer Aruna Roy, among others.
The recent three-judge bench verdict in the Zakia Ahsan Jafri Vs State of Gujarat, decided on June 24, 2022 has, to say the least, left citizens totally disturbed and dismayed, the statement said.
They said it is not just the dismissal of the appeal that has surprised people but the "gratuitous comments" that the bench made about the appellants, their counsel and supporters.
"In the most astonishing comment, the Supreme Court has lauded the officials of the Special Investigation Team who have defended the State and has excoriated the appellants who have challenged the findings of the SIT," the statement said, citing para 88 of the judgement.
The Supreme Court had on June 24 upheld the SIT's clean chit to PM Modi and 63 others in the 2002 communal riots, saying there is no "tittle of material" to show the violence after the Godhra train carnage was "pre-planned" owing to the criminal conspiracy allegedly hatched at the "highest level" in the state.
"We would urge the Supreme Court Justices to suo motu review their order and withdraw the observations contained in Para 88. We would also request them to adopt the course of action advocated by a distinguished former member of their fraternity, Justice Madan Lokur," said the statement issued by the former civil servants.
"He (Justice Lokur) has said that the court would do well to issue a clarification to the effect that it was not their intention that Teesta Setalvad should face arrest and at the same time order her unconditional release," it added.
An Ahmedabad court had on July 2 sent Ms Setalvad to 14-day judicial custody.