Following three months of imprisonment, retired police officer R.B. Sreekumar was granted interim bail by the Gujarat High Court on September 28. Sreekumar was arrested on June 25 along with activist Teesta Setalvad on charges of fabricating evidence in a larger conspiracy in connection with the 2002 Gujarat riots.
The order delivered by Justice Ilesh J. Vora said: “I am inclined to exercise enlarging the applicant on interim bail and accordingly, the applicant shall be released on interim bail till November 15, 2022.”
The judge also ordered Sreekumar to surrender his passport and provide a surety of Rs.10,000 in order to secure interim bail.
Testimony and aftermath
A Gujarat cadre Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, Sreekumar was Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) during the 2002 Gujarat riots. He was among three senior police officers who testified before the Nanavati-Mehta Commission set up in 2002 to probe the communal riots that took place in Gujarat in February that year.
Sreekumar presented the Commission with affidavits that reportedly provided proof that State authorities were the main perpetrators behind the violence which left more than a thousand dead.
He held Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was Gujarat Chief Minister at the time, and top-ranking State ministers responsible for allowing the law and order situation go unchecked.
Sreekumar’s report to J.M Lyngdoh, the then Chief Election Commissioner, led to the cancellation of early State elections in 2002. He wrote that 154 of Gujarat’s 182 constituencies had been affected by the riots. Additionally, over 1 lakh people were displaced following the carnage. Therefore, he said, it would not be the right time to hold elections.
The Nanavati-Mehta Commission eventually rejected Sreekumar’s testimony, as well as those of Rahul Sharma and Sanjiv Bhatt, saying they were disgruntled officers with personal grievances. After testifying, Sreekumar was denied a promotion. He took the State to court over this and won his case in 2006. The Gujarat High Court, however, reversed the order in 2015.
When the Supreme Court delivered a judgement in the Zakia Jafri case in June, it not only dismissed the case and gave Modi a clean chit, it allowed authorities to persecute those who they said were in a conspiracy “to abuse the process of law by fabricating false evidence to make several persons to having committed an offence that is punishable with capital punishment”.
Within days of the judgment, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Gujarat police registered cases against Teesta Setalvad, Sreekumar, and Sanjiv Bhatt. Teesta Setalvad was granted interim bail on September 2. Sanjiv Bhatt remains in prison in Palanpur for a custodial death case.