08, May 2017
Zahira is still the victim :
The Times of India
10 November 2004
Times News Network
Mumbai : Â“Zahira is not the culprit. She was
the victim at the start of the trial. She is still the victim.Â” activist
Teesta Setalvad said here on Tuesday.
She was speaking at a meeting held by several
organisations from across the state to express solidarity with her and her
partners in the cause. The meeting came in response to the doubts cast
over SetalvadÂ’s credibility after the star witness in the Best Bakery
case, Zahira Sheikh, alleged that Setalvad was pressurising her: Â“We need
to see Zahira not as a villain, but as a victim,Â” said lawyer Mihir Desai.
Speakers from social groups, trade union leaders and film-makers urged the
public to understand the circumstances under which the 20-year-old had
WomenÂ’s rights activist Flavia Agnes said it
was not a fight between two women, Teesta and Zahira, but one of justice
versus injustice. Â“There are many more players who we need to identify in
this case. There is a right-wing government, a biased police force, an
extremely slow judicial system, and hostile members of both communities,Â”
said Agnes, adding that there was no need to judge Zahira, but an urgent
need to change the entire system of justice delivery.
Setalvad told the gathering that the accounts
of her group, Citizens for Justice and Peace, were transperent, and were
open to scrutiny. She was reacting to allegations made shortly after
ZahiraÂ’a statement in Gujarat that in functioning of NGOs should be
probed. Â“What about probing the two most opaque NGOs in the country Â– the
Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad?Â” asked Desai.
Ram Punyani of the peopleÂ’s group, Ekta,
suggested that citizens attend the court hearings to extend their support
and sympathy to the witnesses, who is the absence of a proper
witness-protection scheme were subject to all manner of pressures and
Justice (retd) Hosbet Suresh emphasised that
the case of the prosecution remained strong, and that the retrial and the
supreme courtÂ’s order to move the case of Maharashtra had not taken place
because of Setalvad, but because of ZahiraÂ’s own appeals to the judiciary
and to the Human Rights Commission, as well as the irregularities that
were evident in the Gujarat courtÂ’s handling of the case, in which all
the accused were acquitted.
Justice Suresh warned that under section 145
of the Evidence Act, the judge could confront Zahira with her previous
statements, and that the court could slap contempt of court charges on
those who had prevented her from deposing in Mumbai..