Prime witness was ‘coerced’ by Teesta

published on April 20, 2011

The prime witness in the Best Bakery case was “manipulated” and “coerced” to give false evidence before the trial court in Mumbai. This startling disclosure has emerged from an affidavit sent to the Chief Justice of Bombay High Court on June 17, 2010 by Sheikh Yasmeen Banu.

In her affidavit dated June 17, 2010, Yasmeen, whose eyewitness account of the carnage played a crucial role in the conviction of the alleged accused persons stated that her deposition before the trial court was made under duress and she regretted that the innocent persons have been convicted on the basis of her testimony. She has implicated social activist Teesta Setalvad for her “fabricated deposition.”

Yasmeen stated that one day, Rais Khan, who is associated with Teesta Setalvad, visited her along with local Muslim leaders and said that there was a danger to her (Yasmeen) life here and she must come to Mumbai where Best Bakery case was contested. “Rais Khan connected me to Teesta Setalvad from his cell phone. Teesta Setalvad also persuaded me to come to Mumbai along with him and promised me to help from every point of view,” Yasmeen said.

Yasmeen said she and her mother were forced and threatened, even assured by Rais Khan that he and Teesta Setalvad will fulfill all her needs throughout her life.

“Teesta Setalvad used to explain to me about the case there. From there she used to take me to the office of Public Prosecutor Manjula Rao and thereafter she used to drop me at the guest house,” she points out.

She further added that during this period, she was paid by Teesta through her staff Dhyansingh and Pradip. Yasmeen was kept for 11 months in Room No. 102, at Mariam Apartment, Ismile Katre Road, Bhindi Bazaar.

Indicating that all the witnesses were kept under Setalvad’s supervision, Yasmeen said when she was shifted there, the same day other witnesses of the Best Bakery case, namely Taufel, Rais, Shezad, Selon, Ashraf, Shahjahan, Zahira Sheikh and her grandmother also came to stay there.

“Rais Khan and Teesta Setalvad kept strict observation on the flat in which we were residing, we were not able to go out and no one was allowed to meet us. Neither were we having mobile nor were we allowed to talk to anybody, even if we requested. We were not permitted to open the window of the room. Dhyansingh or sometimes Pradip, working in the office of Teesta Setalvad, used to stay for 24 hours there. They used to fulfill our requirements as well as keeping watch on us,” Yasmeen states and adds whosoever was called for deposition in the court used to leave the house and did not return.

Yasmeen said the witnesses were kept in a Government guest house during the period of deposition. “They used to get mobile phone from Teesta’s men in which outgoing calls were barred. Teesta used to explain on mobile on what they have to depose,” she said.

She revealed that Public Prosecutor Manjula Rao where Teesta Setalvad used to be present “everybody was tutored what to speak against whom in the court.”

Claiming that the depositions, which she gave against the persons, on the advice of these people, were unknown to her, Yasmeen said Teesta, Manjula Rao and Rais Khan used to take the witnesses to show their (accused) photographs to her on computers to identify them.

“She took my signatures on a few papers about which she (Yasmeen) had no knowledge,” Yasmeen said, adding that Rais Khan and Teesta Setalvad visited them till the trial continued and assured them that they will fulfill all commitments made to them after the completion of the deposition. Yasmeen was sent to Ahmedabad after the trial and was kept in a house for four months in Shaper Mill Compound.

“I was removed from the house the very next day of the pronouncement of judgement. I came to know that in the name of Best Bakery Case and for arranging deposition of persons like us, Teesta has collected lakhs of rupees and nothing was given to us,” she said.

With nowhere to go, Yasmeen returned to her uncle’s house. The Best Bakery was now out of her reach because her husband’s second wife lived there. After her maternal uncle refused to support her, some people took pity and contributed money to buy her a hut. Her misery did not end. She re-married, got pregnant and was then dumped by her husband. Yasmeen now lives with her mother and two children.

Accusing Rais Khan and Teesta Setalvad of cheating her, Yasmeen said, “By giving false deposition in this case, I have not only lost my ancestral property Best Bakery, which was in my possession and where I started leaving and earning my livelihood, but also on the basis of false assurances, so many innocent persons got convicted. Because of this, I am feeling guilty and probably due to this reason I am leading poor and sorrowful life. I always repent why I did the wrong thing on the advice of a person like Teesta.”

She added that since the judgement of the Best Bakery Case has been delivered on the basis of false testimonies, due to this reason her affidavit be treated as a petition, and the case be re-heard so that now no poor person can be bribed and misled by such people and no innocent person is wrongly punished and “the persons like Teesta Setalvad and Rais Khan be tried as per law, who by misleading and bribing poor, weak and unsupported persons like us, are managing false testimonies.”

Yasmeen sent this affidavit by post in June’2010 not only to the Chief Justice of Bombay High Court, but to Chief Justice of India, Chairman NHRC and Director General of Police, Gujarat. But, despite passing of 10 months no action has been taken against Teesta Setalvad and Rais Khan.

Read Full Detailed Report by Navin Upadhyay here

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