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Gujarat High Court rejects Teesta Setalvad bail plea, SC stays arrest until today

Sibal said that the police was in Mumbai and he feared Teesta could be arrested anytime.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Updated: February 13, 2015 9:00:23 am
Teesta Setalvad, Supreme Court, Kapil Sibal, Gujarat 2002 riot Activist Teesta Setalvad

The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed till tomorrow the arrest of social activist Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand, hours after the Gujarat High Court rejected their anticipatory bail plea in a cheating case.

The Supreme Court is set to hear their appeal against rejection of their anticipatory bail plea on Friday.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal mentioned the matter before a bench led by Chief Justice H L Dattu and pleaded for an urgent listing. He said an “extraordinary situation” had come up after the Gujarat High Court rejected Setalvad’s anticipatory bail plea earlier in the day. Sibal said the police was in Mumbai and he feared Setalvad, her husband and another witness in the case could be arrested.

Accepting his plea, the bench ordered listing of the case for hearing on Friday and granted Setalvad and others protection from arrest till then.

Setalvad, her husband and others have been accused of misappropriating funds meant for construction of a museum at Gulbarg society, which was destroyed in the 2002 Gujarat riots. The Gujarat Police Crime Branch have booked them for cheating, breach of trust and under the Income Tax Act.

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The couple rushed to the apex court within an hour of the High Court dismissing their request for a stay on its order to allow them time to move the Supreme Court. In her petition in the Supreme Court, Setalvad claimed she was being implicated for espousing the cause of the Gujarat riot victims and alleged “political vendetta” by the perpetrators of the riots.

Earlier in the day, the High Court observed that Setalvad was not cooperating in the probe. “They cannot be armoured with full fledged anticipatory bail when applicant did not cooperate with the investigation,” said Justice J B Pardiwala, turning down the bail pleas of Setalwad and her husband.

“How can one seek materialistic pleasure and happiness at the expense of the poor and needy persons. How can one even use five paise which is meant for the poor and the needy. The facts of this case reflect the sorry state of affairs of the NGOs…The donations are made with lot of trust and hope that ultimately the money would reach the poor and the needy. However, here is a case where, in the name of the poor, needy and unfortunate riot-affected victims, lakhs of rupees was received and embezzled,” said the court, adding that it was “shocking and disturbing”.

The court maintained that their custodial interrogation was “in public interest” and “in the interest of justice”. “The applicant has never cooperated with the probe and whenever she was called for questioning she insisted that cops ask her everything in writing, and also maintained that she had said everything in her affidavits before the sessions court,” it said.

In January last year, the Crime Branch registered an FIR against Setalvad and others on complaints by some former residents of Gulbarg Society and riot victims, accusing them of misappropriating funds collected by them in donations for turning the housing society into a museum. The idea was later dropped.

In their defence, Setalvad and Anand argued that the case was politically motivated, stating that they had “thoroughly exposed the state government so far as their dubious role in the riots is concerned.”

Meanwhile, as Additional Advocate General P K Jani submitted that the state government had no objection to anticipatory bail being given to three other accused —Tanvir Jafri, son of slain Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, Gulbarg Society chairman Firoz Gulzar and secretary Salim Sandhi — their pleas were allowed. The court directed them to appear before the city crime branch on February 19.

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