The Supreme Court on Friday granted interim bail to activist Teesta Setalvad, who was arrested by the Gujarat Police for an alleged conspiracy to send innocent persons to jail by misleading the investigation into the 2002 Gujarat riots case.
The top court said the activist is entitled to interim bail but left the decision on regular bail to the Gujarat high court. Chief Justice U.U. Lalit said, “It is a matter of record that the appellant was remanded to police custody for about seven days and was interrogated every day by the concerned investigating machinery.”
Hearing the matter on Thursday, the top court had indicated that it would grant interim bail to Setalvad. It also raised five points to the Gujarat government, including that none of the offences mentioned against the activist bar grant of bail.
The bench of CJI Lalit and Justices S. Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia said, “We have considered the matter only from the standpoint of interim bail and we shall not be taken to have expressed anything on the merits of the submission advanced on behalf of the appellant. The entire matter on merits shall be considered by the high court independently and uninfluenced by any observations made by this court.”
The other accused in the case cannot rely on the court’s verdict to seek bail, the court added.
Kapil Sibal, appearing for Setalvad, argued that the facts narrated in the FIR against the activist are but a repetition of the proceedings which ended with the Supreme Court’s June 24 verdict in Zakia Jafri’s petition. He argued that the offence alleged against Setalvad is not even made out.
Sibal said the testimony of witness coaching against Setalvad was made by a former employee, whom she fired. Various courts have convicted people in the 2002 riot cases based on affidavits that the activist helped compile, therefore, there is no question of manipulation, he argued.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Gujarat government, argued that the application for bail is pending consideration before the Gujarat high court and the court must be allowed to consider it. According to LiveLaw, he added that there is sufficient material apart from the details in the FIR pointing towards Setalvad’s involvement in the alleged offence.
The FIR against Setalvad – along with former Gujarat cops R.B. Sreekumar and Sanjiv Bhatt – was registered a day after the Supreme Court rejected a petition by Zakia Jafri to probe the involvement of Narendra Modi and several other top Gujarat administration officials in the 2002 anti-Muslim violence.Rejecting the plea, the court said Setalvad and others engaged in an abuse of process by pursuing the cases for many years and needed to “be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law”.