Ahmedabad, Aug 3: Justice Samir Dave of the Gujarat High Court on Thursday recused himself from hearing a plea filed by social activist Teesta Setalvad seeking quashing of an FIR filed against her by the Ahmedabad crime branch for allegedly fabricating evidence in the 2002 riots cases.

When the matter came up for hearing, Justice Dave said, "Not before me."

Now, the chief justice of the high court will allot the case to a new judge.

Last month, a sessions court had rejected Setalvad's discharge plea in the case, even as the Supreme Court granted her bail after the Gujarat High Court denied relief to her.

She then moved a plea seeking quashing of the FIR in the Gujarat High Court.

Setalvad and two others - former state Director General of Police R B Sreekumar and former Indian Police Service officer Sanjiv Bhatt - were arrested by the city crime branch in June 2022 on charges of forgery and fabricating evidence with the intent to implicate the Gujarat government functionaries in the 2002 riots cases.

A first information report (FIR) was registered against them after the Supreme Court last month dismissed the plea filed by Zakia Jafri, whose husband and former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri was killed during the riots.

Setalvad was booked under sections 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating) and 194 (giving or fabricating false evidence with intent to procure conviction for capital offence) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), among others.

The state government, during a hearing in the sessions court earlier, had alleged that Setalvad drafted affidavits in the names of victims to implicate innocent persons including the then chief minister (now Prime Minister Narendra Modi), senior officers, and ministers.

Zakia Jafri's plea alleged a "larger conspiracy" behind the 2002 post-Godhra riots in Gujarat involving the then chief minister Narendra Modi. The court upheld the SIT's clean chit to Modi and 63 others.

In its judgment, the Supreme Court observed, "At the end of the day, it appears to us that a coalesced effort of the disgruntled officials of the State of Gujarat along with others was to create sensation by making revelations which were false to their own knowledge."

"The falsity of their claims had been fully exposed by the SIT after a thorough investigation...As a matter of fact, all those involved in such abuse of process need to be in the dock and proceed in accordance with law."

Ehsan Jafri was among the 68 people killed at Ahmedabad's Gulberg Society during violence on February 28, 2002, a day after the Godhra train burning that claimed 59 lives.

The riots that it triggered killed 1,044 people, mostly Muslims. Giving details, the Central government informed the Rajya Sabha in May 2005 that 254 Hindus and 790 Muslims were killed in the post-Godhra riots.

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New Delhi/Srinagar, Jul 13: The Centre has significantly strengthened the authority of the lieutenant governor in Jammu and Kashmir, empowering him to make decisions on crucial matters such as police and all-India services officers and granting sanctions for prosecution in various cases.

The opposition slammed the Union government's move and termed it a step towards "disempowering" the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Official sources, however, said the notification does not in any sense alter the balance of powers as enshrined in the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019.

The Union home ministry gave more powers to the lieutenant governor on Friday by amending the transaction rules framed under the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019. This Act, passed alongside the abrogation of Article 370, bifurcated the erstwhile state into two Union territories -- Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

The sources said that with the amendments to the transaction rules, the powers of the legislative assembly and the functions of the lieutenant governor have been clearly defined and delineated in the Act, and the same has been reflected in the transaction of business rules.

The Union home ministry notification, through which the amendment to the transaction rules of the Act were brought, has been issued to provide better clarity on the processes to enable the smooth administration of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

It is a simple amendment to the transaction rules which were issued to avoid any ambiguity, the sources added.

In the past, proposals concerning police, public order, all-India services and the Anti-Corruption Bureau required approval from the finance department of Jammu and Kashmir before reaching the lieutenant governor.

Under the revised rules, such proposals must now be presented directly to the lieutenant governor through the chief secretary of the Union territory.

The lieutenant governor's authority extends further to the appointment of the advocate general and other law officers. These appointments, previously decided upon by the government, will now require the lieutenant governor's approval.

The Centre's decision has met with criticism from some political parties in Jammu and Kashmir who view it as an attempt to undermine the power of an elected government.

The Supreme Court has directed the restoration of statehood in Jammu and Kashmir "at the earliest" and the holding of elections to the assembly by September 30, 2024.

On Saturday, various political parties expressed their disapproval of the Centre's move to grant additional powers to the lieutenant governor in matters concerning police and all-India service officers.

The National Conference (NC) and the People's Democratic Party (PDP) labelled the decision as a step towards "disempowering" the people of Jammu and Kashmir, while the Congress condemned the move as a "murder of democracy".

The Apni Party called for a unified protest against the decision.

Following the Centre's move, decisions regarding prosecution sanctions and filing appeals will also come under the lieutenant governor's purview. Additionally, matters related to prisons, the directorate of prosecution and the forensic science laboratory will be handled directly by the lieutenant governor.

"No proposal which requires previous concurrence of the Finance Department with regard to 'Police', 'Public Order', 'All India Service' and 'Anti Corruption Bureau' to exercise the discretion of the Lieutenant Governor under the Act shall be concurred or rejected unless it has been placed before the lieutenant governor through the chief secretary," the Union home ministry notification stated.

The lieutenant governor's role in bureaucratic matters has also been amplified. Proposals for postings and transfers of administrative secretaries, along with those concerning IAS and IPS officers, will be routed through his office.

Reacting to this order, NC vice-president Omar Abdullah raised concerns about the implications of having a "powerless and rubber stamp" chief minister, who would need the lieutenant governor's approval even for minor appointments.

Despite acknowledging the timing of the decision in relation to the upcoming elections, Abdullah emphasised the importance of a clear commitment towards restoring full statehood of Jammu and Kashmir.

"This is why a firm commitment to laying out the timeline for restoration of full and undiluted statehood for Jammu and Kashmir is a prerequisite for these polls. The people of Jammu and Kashmir deserve better than a powerless and rubber stamp CM who will have to beg the L-G to get his/her peon appointed," he said.

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said the increased powers given to the Jammu and Kashmir lieutenant governor suggested a dim outlook for the restoration of a full-fledged statehood in the near future.

In a post on 'X', he said, "The only meaning that can be drawn from this notification is that full-fledged statehood for Jammu and Kashmir does not seem likely in the immediate future."

PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti's daughter and media adviser Iltija Mufti highlighted the perceived agenda behind the decision, suggesting that it was aimed at limiting the powers of any future elected government in the region.

"The order seeks to disempower the powers of the next Jammu and Kashmir state government only because the BJP doesn't want to cede control or lose its iron grip over Kashmiris. Statehood is out of the question. An elected government in Jammu and Kashmir will be reduced to a municipality," she said.

Jammu and Kashmir Congress president Vikar Rasool Wani echoed the sentiment of democracy being under threat, describing the move as a "murder of democracy" that would hinder the path to true statehood restoration.

Apni Party chief Altaf Bukhari called for unity among political parties in opposing the Centre's decision, warning against the creation of a "powerless assembly" that would diminish the effectiveness of elected representatives in serving the region's interests.

"We appeal to all parties to shun political differences and come together on this issue. If we cannot stand united today, then we will never be. We should ensure that the statehood that we get is not hollow and has all the powers to serve people. We have to be united to serve the interests of the people," Bukhari added.

The sources said the Act was passed by Parliament in August 2019 and the same was upheld by the Supreme Court.

As per section 32 of the Act, the legislative assembly may make laws concerning any of the matters enumerated in the State List except "Police" and "Public Order" or the Concurrent List in the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India, they said.

As per section 53 of the Act, the lieutenant governor shall exercise his functions in his discretion in a matter which falls outside the purview of powers conferred on legislative assembly, related to all-India services and the Anti-Corruption Bureau and any other matter which he is required by or under any law to act in its discretion.

Senior CPI(M) leader M Y Tarigami said the amendments constitute "another brazen assault on the remaining nominal rights", virtually "downsizing" a historic state to the status of a bigger municipality. He said it is high time for all political parties to unitedly oppose the "autocratic order" and demand its revocation.