The Supreme Court on Friday granted interim bail to activist Teesta Setalvad who has been in custody for over two months after being accused of forgery and fabrication of evidence in a case related to the 2002 Gujarat riots, Bar and Bench reported.

Setalvad had moved the Supreme Court objecting to a long gap between the date of hearings in the Gujarat High Court. It had issued notice on Setalvad’s bail plea on August 2 but listed the matter for hearing on September 19.

On Friday, a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India UU Lalit said the High Court should have considered her application for interim bail during pendency of the matter as custodial interrogation in the case had been completed.

“Investigating machinery had the advantage of custodial interrogation for 7 days followed by judicial custody,” the bench observed, adding that the allegations against the activist are from the 2002-’12 period.

The court asked Setalvad to surrender her passport till the time the Gujarat High Court decides her regular bail plea.

The court also directed authorities to produce Setalvad before a lower court to set conditions for her interim bail.

“We have considered the matter only from the standpoint of interim bail and we shall not be taken to have expressed anything on the merits of the submission advanced on behalf of the appellant,” the judges said, according to Live Law. “The entire matter on merits shall be considered by the High Court independently and uninfluenced by any observations made by this court.”

On Thursday, the bench had questioned whether the Gujarat High Court had ever adjourned a bail plea for six weeks.

The court had noted that Setalvad had been booked under sections of the Indian Penal Code and can be granted bail after the initial period of police custody.

“There is no offence in this case which comes with a rider that bail cannot be granted, like Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, and the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002,” the chief justice had noted at Thursday’s hearing.

The forgery case

Gujarat Police had arrested Setalvad on June 26, two days after the Supreme Court had dismissed allegations of a “larger conspiracy” levelled by Zakia Jafri, wife of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior Gujarat officials in the 2002 Gujarat riots case.

The Supreme Court judgment had also read a statement by the Gujarat government in its statement where Setalvad was accused of exploiting Zakia Jafri’s emotions.

At Thursday’s hearing, the Supreme Court had noted that the first information report filed against Setalvad does not say much besides the observations made by the Supreme Court in its June 24 order.

In an affidavit filed on July 15 Gujarat Police had claimed 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, who died in 2020.

The Gujarat Police alleged that Setalvad “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, to push forward her agenda against the Gujarat government.

The activist is the founder of Citizens for Justice and Peace organisation that helps riot victims get justice.