Communal Mindset- When A Retired HC Judge Called For Removing A Supreme Court Judge From Hearing Gujarat Cases
While the Supreme Court dismissed Zakia Jafris petition seeking a probe into the alleged larger conspiracy behind the 2002 Gujarat riots, the three-judge bench of Justice A M Khanwilkar, Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice C T Ravikumar made some strong observations against those who abused the process of Court to "keep the pot boiling" in the aftermath of the 2002 Gujarat riots.
"As a matter of fact, all those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law" the Court had directed.
A day after the Supreme Court pronounced its judgment, the Gujarat Police arrested Teesta Setalvad and former DGP R B Sreekumar. A court has sent both of them to judicial custody.
"This is a hundred per cent spurious case to victimise the petitioner" Justice Aftab Alam is reported to have said in February 2012 while hearing a plea challenging the FIR registered against Teesta Setalvad for the alleged illegal exhumation of dead bodies from a graveyard.
The Supreme Court disposed of the same plea in 2017, without granting any relief to the petitioner Teesta Setalvad.
How and on what material on record was the above conclusion reached by Justice Aftab Alam, asked Justice S. M. Soni, a then retired Judge of the Gujarat High Court in his letter addressed to the then CJI S H Kapadia.
"In this case nine accused were arrested and sent to jail. During investigation five accused persons had given statements under Section 164 of CrPC before the Magistrate against Ms Setalvad. Even a witness Shri. Rahul Singh who is a Senior Journalist has also named/blamed Ms Setalvad for this crime. Still Mr Justice Alam choose to lash out at the State of Gujarat. Why and how and on what material on record without hearing the concerned parties, above conclusion is reached? What is the value of the statement under section 164 of CrPC? How the statement U/s 164 of CrPC are ignored at this stage? What is the impact of such approach on charges of section 120B of IPC?" Justice Soni wrote in his letter of June 27, 2012.
Justice Soni cited many other similar examples in his letter to state that "It is with great pains, that I bring it your Lordships kind notice that the general feeling carried amongst legal fraternity and among the people at large in Gujarat is that Gujarat is being targeted by Mr Justice Alam with a single mandate of siding minority community irrespective of their being wrong. This apprehension hits at the heart of justice".
Justice Soni had written the letter referring to a speech by Justice Aftab Alam in London in October 2009, "It is palpably visible that almost every politically sensitive matter relating to Gujarat is coming before the Bench where one of the Judge is Honble Mr Justice Aftab Alam and every judgment delivered by him irrespective of the wrong-doings, whether by individual officers, N.G.Os, person accused or authorities, is repeatedly and consistently found in favour of Minority community".
"It appears, the pre-conceived beliefs with which concerned court functions is one of the victimization of the minority community", Justice Soni said, adding that personal preferences and ideologies cannot be permitted to dominate dispensation of justice.
"The Honble Supreme Court exists for the people of India and targeting certain section of its people, as crusaders for the minorities, does not present the Honble Supreme Court in a good light", Justice Soni wrote in the letter seeking transfer of all matters, especially criminal matters, related to Gujarat to any other Bench.
In February 2013, Rais Khan Pathan, a friend turned foe of Teesta Setalvad who finds mention in the letter of Justice Soni, filed an application in the above-mentioned case before the Supreme Court seeking a direction that the said case be "listed before some other bench where His Lordship Honble Justice Mr. Aftab Alam is not a member".
It was Justice Aftab Alam who had been hearing the said case along with the other connected cases from the inception in 2011 and was the one who had passed interim orders staying further proceedings in the case. After the filing of the said application, the case was not listed until the retirement of Justice Aftab Alam in April 2013. Senior Advocate Ram Jethmalani had appeared for Rais Pathan in the matter.
Within two months of his retirement, Justice Aftab Alam was appointed as the Chairperson of the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal. He retired in 2016.