V for Valour The Telegraph

05, Sep 2022

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday directed release of rights activist Teesta Setalvad on interim bail in a case where she alleges victimisation by the Gujarat administration for her support to victims of the 2002 riots

The apex court said Setalvad, in custody for 10 weeks, must be produced before the trial court on Saturday for the imposition of bail conditions, including surrender of her passport

The bench of Chief Justice U.U. Lalit and Justices S. Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia asked Setalvad to approach Gujarat High Court for regular bail. The bench made it clear that the grant of interim bail did not imply any opinion on the merits of the case against her

Setalvad was arrested on June 25, a day after a Supreme Court bench upheld a special investigation team s clean chit to then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in the Gulbarg Society massacre, and said Teesta Setalvad. (File picture) that those who had “kept the pot boiling” should be put “in the dock”

Citing these comments, Gujarat police had booked Setalvad — who had helped a riot victim challenge the SIT s exoneration of Modi — and two former IPS officers who had alleged connivance between the state administration and rioters. The trio are accused of fabricating documents to implicate innocent people in the riots

On Thursday, the apex court had questioned the high court s August 3 decision to delay hearing of Setalvad s bail plea till September 19, particularly when the accused was a woman

On Friday, the apex court clarified that the grant of interim bail to her would not entail similar orders in favour of the other accused as Setalvad had been given the relief on the basis of her gender and long spell in custody

“The appellant, a lady, has been in custody since 25 June, 2022. The offence alleged against her pertains to the year 2002 and going by assertions, at best, the concerned documents date to 2002,” the bench said

“The investigation machinery has had the advantage of her custody for interrogation for seven days, followed by judicial custody. The essential ingredients of custodial interrogation being completed, the matter of interim bail should have been heard by the high court of Gujarat…. We are only on the question as to whether, during the pendency of such application (interim bail), should the custody of such appellant be insisted upon or be granted bail. We grant the appellant interim bail.”

Setalvad s counsel Kapil Sibal had earlier contested the submission by solicitor-general Tushar Mehta, representing the Gujarat government, that a “powerful” and “intelligent” woman like Setalvad, if released, would tamper with evidence and influence witnesses

“She is a 60-year-old lady; what can she do?” Sibal said

“I am the number one enemy of the State, and he (Mehta) talks about me being a powerful person! Who can be more powerful than the State?” he said

The court granted the relief rejecting Mehta s submission that the high court had not singled out Setalvad for delayed bail hearing

“Yesterday, Your Lordship rightly raised a concern about the returnable date of the high court. The message which went was that she was singled out. I know it was never intended, it was reported (by the media) that way,” Mehta said

Quoting the high court registry, Mehta said that on August 3, the high court had in at least 33 other matters listed the bail applications for September and even October

“In my submission, the high court rightly continued with the uniform practice adopted in view of the number of matters listed; it gave a reasonable date,” Mehta said

Sibal countered: “I have a Teesta Setalvad. (File picture) list of 28 matters by the same judge where bail was granted in a few days.” Mehta retorted: “This petitioner has maligned the entire state since 2002, has maligned entire institutions, says this judge is not trustworthy, that judge is not trustworthy, please stop this. He is one of the finest judges; don t say anything behind his back.” He added: “This has been going on, this maligning campaign, that the entire state is (one of) rapists, murderers….” Justice Lalit cut the exchange short and asked the two counsel to confine themselves to the facts of the case

Mehta accused Setalvad of filing FIRs “with wild allegations” and of “falsification of evidence”

Sibal underlined that material produced by Setalvad had helped the conviction of accused in many riot cases and secured life sentences for 124 people.

The original piece may be read here

 

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