Supreme Court wants larger bench to hear Teesta Setalvad bail plea

The bench extended the February 19 order of interim stay on the couple’s arrest.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Updated: March 20, 2015 5:08 am
teesta Setalvad, Supreme Court Setalvad, Activist Teesta Setalvad Supreme Court last month gave the couple anticipatory bail in a separate case of alleged misappropriation of funds raised for a museum at the site of the Gulberg Society massacre during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Social activist Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand failed to get anticipatory bail on Thursday, with a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court saying the issue demanded the attention of a larger bench.

The bail plea, usually a routine matter in courts, will now be decided by a bench comprising at least three judges of the top court. There is currently a stay on the couple’s arrest.

Saying that “the matter should be heard by a larger bench”, the court directed the Court Registry to place the matter before Chief Justice H L Dattu for the constitution of an appropriate bench.

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The two-judge bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Adarsh Kumar Goel said the issue before it was “whether liberty on one hand and fair and effective investigation on the other, make out a case for extending the benefit under Section 438 CrPC (anticipatory bail)”.

It cited one passage from political thinker Edmund Burke to emphasise how indispensable liberty was, and another by second president of the United States John Adams to state that no one is above the law.

The court said the larger bench would need to address a host of issues, namely “the value of liberty, the concept of regulated freedom, the societal restriction, the supremacy of the law, the concept of anticipatory bail and the assertion of the prosecution about the non-cooperation of the appellants in the investigation, and the asseveration made by the appellants (Teesta and Javed)”.

The case involves funds received by Sabrang Trust and Citizens for Justice and Peace for building a memorial at the Gulbarg Cooperative Housing Society in Ahmedabad for victims of the 2002 riots. The Gujarat police had lodged an FIR on a complaint alleging cheating, breach of trust and misappropriation of funds. The High Court had rejected the couple’s bail plea underlining their lack of cooperation with investigators, prompting Teesta and Javed to move the top court.

The matter was then mentioned before a bench headed by CJI Dattu, and he allowed the case to be listed the next day on an urgent basis. When the matter came up before a two-judge bench of Justices S J Mukhopadhaya and N V Ramana, it said that the allegations were “grave” and added that “she (Teesta) would be treated like any other ordinary citizen”.

But almost a week later, the case came to be listed before another bench of Justices Misra and Goel. This bench granted Teesta and Javed interim protection from arrest, and expressed an inclination to grant them bail, observing that “liberty is paramount and cannot be put on a ventilator” when custodial interrogation is not imperative. It reserved its judgement on February 19.

Three days later, an unusual development took place as the Supreme Court fielded its Registrar to deny that the CJI had “on his own” shifted the bail plea to the new bench. The Registrar, however, declined to disclose which of the two judges on the previous bench — Justice Mukhopadhaya or Justice Ramana — had recused. Neither did the Registrar disclose why the judge had not recused when the bail plea first came up before the bench.

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  1. H
    Haradhan Mandal
    Mar 19, 2015 at 3:26 pm
    It CLEARLY shows what honorable Supreme Court thinks about this case and about Gujrat police in this case. Supreme court should use all its power to stop of the misuse of police power and govt power of mafia-politicians ;and protect the NGOs and Human rights' groups! Honorable Supreme Court should recognize these NGOs and Human rights' groups as its EYES and EARS and HANDS to deliver justice to ordinary people! These NGOs and Human Rights' groups are only beacon of light and the Supreme court is the only power, left for ordinary citizens. Just remember how State and Central Govt (both under the same political ideology) forced that lady, Mrs Pillai, a Green and Human Right Activists, from travelling abroad to attend conference!
    1. N
      nishit sahay
      Mar 19, 2015 at 10:17 pm
      Hopefully one day SC will protect innocent ones and not criminals. Indian legal system needs overhauling.
      1. A
        Amit Sinha
        Mar 19, 2015 at 7:01 pm
        Being a NRI I don't know much about this woman (couple?). But I do recall seeing a YouTube video of a debate on the status of Moslems in India. She was arguing that the Islamic community in India is seriously discriminated against by all non-Moslems . The crux of her argument was the community's paltry representation in India's civil services, etc. She came across as very motivated but her supporting arguments were weak and the opposing side (and some people in the audience during Q&A) picked them apart with ease. From what I understand the woman is a Hindu who is married to a Moslem man. Which is perfectly fine. What is NOT fine is when she leverages her 'pion' for minority rights to enrich herself (by misappropriating funds) to live high on the hog. I read somewhere she spent crores on frivolous purchases using credit cards and now she is claiming those were legitimate buys since the money came from her private funds. Is she that wealthy that she could afford such a splurge? At least, on the surface it appears she is a crook and ought to be put away for a very long time - preferably with her husband and those who funded them. Can anyone give me a pointer where I can catch up on the background of this case (and/or this couple)? Thank you!
        1. M
          Mar 19, 2015 at 12:50 pm
          only our countrys judiciary stands between "revenge of Modi" and Teesta Seetalvad. The case has nothing to do with frauds or anything. Its just revenge politics. Because she stood up for the victims of Gujrat Genocide.
        2. R
          Mar 19, 2015 at 11:42 am
          High time this criminal is locked up.
          1. R
            Mar 19, 2015 at 11:55 am
            I really wished Narendra Modi would file a defamation case against this useless creature. Shameless liar filed false cases against the honourable PM accusing him of m murder without a single shred of evidence. Of course, the PM has far more cl and dignity than this piece of manure. People have called him a murderer, a butcher, a dictator and he has always taken it all in his stride. Much respect to him for being a far bigger man than me. As for this filthy liar, she has proven herself to be honest, and I have no doubt that she used illegal funds.
          2. B
            Bulusu S Murthy
            Mar 19, 2015 at 1:16 pm
            While it's a long held legal dictum that one should approach courts with clean hands, wonder why Justices Misra and Gogoi are found to be so fond of Teesta Setalvad? Hope the larger bench will have a broader perspective than the pro-fraud bunch.
          3. B
            B. SRIDHAR
            Mar 19, 2015 at 9:34 pm
            This is quite surprising. How come the issue of rights and liberty have come in this case. Whose liberty and freedom and rights are in question. A couple who have not at all been co-operating with the police for the last one year. There splurge of the funds and improper transfer to their personal accounts in the public domain thanks to one news paper named PIONEER. The entire media being spectators and infact playing ball witht he couples for the simple fact that WHEN MY ENEMY IS YOUR ENEMY AND HENCE YOU ARE MY FRIEND atude and thereby showcasing this woman as a crusader for minority welfare, is the reason this woman grew bigger than her shoes. The couple feel that they are untouchable by law. There are about more than 300 cases against her and in this case the doentations are clear and if they are granted bail, then the courts will be setting a totally wrong precedent. The referral to a larger bench will only give them time. The courts could have easily found out whether the couple were co-operating with the investigations or not! But the courts chose the other way! This is a sad commentary. Atleast we expect the Supreme Court to be fair and not get swa away by media reports and fake debates! TIME THIS COUPLE LAND UP BEHIND THE BARS!
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