Teesta Setalvad case: Has Gujarat HC ever adjourned bail pleas for 6 weeks, SC asks police
High Court issued notice on the activist’s plea on August 2 and listed the case for September 19. Supreme Court said that Setlavad was being made an exception.
Noting that the Gujarat High Court has adjourned the bail hearing of activist Teesta Setalvad for six weeks, the Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Gujarat Police to give details of cases that were listed for hearing after a long pause, reported Bar and Bench.
A bench of Chief Justice Uday Umesh Lalit and Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia made the observation against the High Court order that had issued notice on the Mumbai-based activist’s bail plea on August 2 but listed the matter for hearing on September 19.
Setalvad was arrested on June 26 for allegedly committing forgery and fabricating evidence in a case related to the 2002 Gujarat riots.
“Give us instances where lady accused in such cases have got such dates from High Court,” the Supreme Court told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on Thursday. “Either this lady has been made an exception. How can the court give this date? Is this standard practice in Gujarat?”
To this, Mehta said that no woman has committed similar types of offences, reported Live Law.
The court was inclined to grant bail to Setalvad but ultimately adjourned the hearing for Friday.
At the hearing, the judges said that “four or five features of the case bother us”.
The court noted that the activist has been in custody for over two months but no chargesheet has been filed. It also said that the offences were not like the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, and the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002, that Setalvad cannot be granted bail.
“These are not offences of bodily offences, these are offences of documents filed in court,” the court said. “In these matters, the normal idea is, after the initial period of police custody, there is nothing which stop the investigators from conducting the investigation without custody.”
The judges also said that the first information report has nothing else than what the Supreme Court observed in the Zakia Jafri case. They asked if the police have found any material in the last two months.
“What struck us is, your complaint doesn’t recite anything more than SC judgement,” the court said. “So, if the judgement is out on 24th June, the 25th complaint is out. The officer who made the complaint, he was not privy to knowledge other than that. Within one day a complaint came to be filed.”
In the Zakia Jafri case, the Supreme Court had dismissed allegations of a “larger conspiracy” levelled by the wife of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior Gujarat officials in the 2002 Gujarat riots case. Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat in that year.
In its judgement, the court read a statement made by the state government that Setalvad, a co-petitioner in the case, exploited the emotions of Zakia Jafri.
Just a day after the Supreme Court verdict, Setalvad, former Gujarat Director General of Police RB Sreekumar and suspended Indian Police Service officer Sanjiv Bhatt were booked by the Gujarat Police.
The police alleged that Setalvad, in order to push forward her agenda against the Gujarat government, “used the guise of collecting money in the name of riot victims” and used a Foreign Contribution Regulation Act licence to obtain funding from various international non-government organisations.
In the aftermath of the riots, Setalvad founded the organisation Citizens for Justice and Peace to help riot victims get justice. The organisation assisted the victims in filing cases, arranged funds to pursue the matters in courts and offered protection to witnesses.
The Gujarat government, in an affidavit before the Supreme Court, claimed that the investigation carried out by the state police’s Anti-Terrorism Squad has revealed a prima facie case against Setalvad for fabricating evidence about the riots.
The Gujarat government also cited statements by witnesses and said that Setalvad and other accused persons took part in a conspiracy to fabricate evidence at the behest of “a senior leader of a political party”. The activist held meetings with the leader and received a large amount of money, the government alleged.
On July 15, the Gujarat Police had told a court in Ahmedabad that Setalvad took part in a conspiracy to destabilise the state government after the 2002 riots. The police had claimed that the conspiracy had been planned at the behest of former Congress MP Ahmed Patel.