The Supreme Court, Monday, issued a notice to the Gujarat government on a plea for grant of interim bail to activist Teesta Setalvad, who is accused of fabricating evidence to frame high functionaries of the Gujarat government in the 2002 Godhra riot case. In effect, the case will now be heard on August 25 instead of the earlier September 19. Setalvad’s counsel argued that bail matters should not be delayed and must be heard expeditiously.
A three-judge Bench led by Justice U.U. Lalit agreed to a request made by senior advocate Kapil Sibal and advocate Aparna Bhat, appearing for Setalvad, for an urgent listing and decision on the bail plea. The court has listed the case for August 25 and assured the lawyers that it would hear the case on the day.
Right at the onset of the hearing, Justice Lalit asked Sibal whether there was any objection to him being part of the Bench as he had, in the past, appeared as a lawyer for some of the accused in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh case.
“As far as we are concerned, we have no issue,” Sibal is reported to have replied. The Bench recorded Sibal’s assent on behalf of his client and began hearing the case.
The defendant’s counsel argued that the FIR registered in Ahmedabad, on basis of which Setalvad had been arrested, was a mere “recitation” of observations made by the Supreme Court judgment in the Zakia Jafri case. “Nothing more has been alleged against the petitioner. Yet, she was taken into custody,” he argued.
After a brief hearing, the court ordered a quick hearing of the interim plea, “without delay considering the facts and circumstances.”
In July, an Ahmedabad Sessions Court had refused bail to Setalvad and others in the case, observing that they had tried to “destabilise” the state government and defame its top functionaries to serve ulterior motives. The Sessions Court had said that granting them bail would send the wrong message.
In early August, the Gujarat High Court issued a notice to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) on a plea for bail by Setalvad and former Director-General of Police R.B. Sreekumar. The High Court had listed the matter for September 19.
She was arrested in Mumbai on June 25 by the Gujarat ATS, a day after the Supreme Court dismissed allegations of “larger conspiracy” levelled by Zakia Jafri, widow of Congress leader Ehsan Jafri who was killed in the 2002 Gujarat riots. The charges accused former CM Narendra Modi and over 60 senior state officials of having fanned the carnage of the minority community during the Godhra riots.
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