Gujarat runs into tough questions in Supreme Court on Teesta The Telegraph

02, Sep 2022 | R. Balaji

Apex court points out that Gujarat HC had adjourned the rights defender’s bail plea for an unusually long period of six weeks

Gujarat runs into tough questions in Supreme Court on Teesta

Teesta Setalvad. File photo

The Supreme Court on Thursday asked why interim bail should not be granted to rights defender Teesta Setalvad and questioned Gujarat High Court’s delay in hearing her bail plea.

The apex court suggested that “this lady has been made an exception”, noting that the case dealt with no offence for which bail should not be granted. “Is this the standard practice in Gujarat?” the apex court bench of Chief Justice U.U. Lalit and Justices S. Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia asked while pointing out that several decisions taken at the judicial and government levels that were not consistent with standard procedure.

The bench heard the case till around 4.20pm, past the regular court rising time of 4pm, and said it would hear further arguments from 2pm on Friday. The court took note of the fact that the Gujarat government’s FIR against Setalvad, behind bars for over two months now, was registered within a day of the Supreme Court hearing an appeal related to the 2002 Gujarat riots and recites nothing more than what the court order had said.

Setalvad was arrested on June 25, a day after another bench of the apex court, while upholding a special investigation team’s clean chit to Narendra Modi in the Gulbarg Society massacre case, said those who had “kept the pot boiling” should be put “in the dock”.

Setalvad was a co-petitioner in the case along with Zakia Jafri, wife of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri who was among the 69 people killed  during the Gulbarg Society attack. The Supreme Court pointed out on Thursday that Gujarat High Court had adjourned Setalvad’s bail plea for an unusually long period of six weeks.

The top court brushed aside the contention of solicitor-general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Gujarat government, that Setalvad’s bail plea could not be entertained as a special case when the high court was already seized of the matter. The apex court asked several questions to the law officer regarding the investigation and whether there was any precedent of a woman not accused in a grave offence having to wait so long for her bail plea to be listed for hearing.

“The high court issues notice on the bail plea on August 3 and makes it returnable (to be heard) on September 19. Six weeks in bail matter made returnable?” the three-judge apex court bench asked. Normally, bail pleas get listed within two-to-four weeks.

The bench asked Mehta: “Give us instances where a lady accused in such cases has got such dates from high court. Either this lady has been made an exception or the question is how can the court give such date? Is this the standard practice in Gujarat?”It added: “We are of the view that there is no offence in this case which comes with a rider that bail cannot be granted as in the case of (anti-terror laws) UAPA, POTA. There are normal IPC offences. These are not offences relating to bodily offences, these are offences (related to) documents filed in court.”Setalvad has been booked for offences such as forgery and perjury to “frame innocent people” in Gujarat riot cases. Bodily offences refer to crimes such as rape and murder. The Supreme Court pointed out that in matters like forgery and perjury, the usual practice is that after the initial period of police custody, the investigators do not need to hold the accused to continue with the probe.“Even otherwise, you know a lady is entitled to a favourable treatment…. So why not we grant her interim bail?” CJI Lalit asked.

The apex court noted that the FIR registered by the Gujarat government as it now stood “is nothing more (than) what happened in this court. So, is there any additional material apart from what was in the Supreme Court judgment (of June 24)?” it asked.

The top court asked the following questions to Mehta, reproduced verbatim:# In the last two months, have you filed a chargesheet or is the investigations going on?# What materials have you found in the last two months against her?# The lady has completed two months of judicial custody. She was in police custody for six days. Have the Gujarat police elicited anything out of that interrogation?# Is it the standard practice of Gujarat High Court to adjourn bail matter by six weeks? “Give us a case where a lady has been involved in a case like this and high court had made it returnable by six weeks,” Justice Lalit told Mehta. The solicitor-general replied: “No lady has committed similar type of offences.”

The original piece may be read here


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Go to Top
Nafrat Ka Naqsha 2023