‘Is this standard practice in Gujarat High Court?’: SC Questions Gujarat HC in Teesta Setalvad’s Bail Plea Matter


Tanisha Rana

Published on: September 2, 2022 at 22:40 IST

The Gujarat High Court had given notice to right-wing activist Teesta Setalvad‘s petition on August 3 but had scheduled a follow-up hearing for September 19, six weeks later. The Supreme Court objected to this action on Thursday.

A bench of Chief Justice UU Lalit, Justice S Ravindra Bhat and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia were hearing the bail plea.

The Bench had questioned the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for Gujarat that, “Give us a case where a lady is in confinement on charges like this and the High Court has given a date after six weeks. What is the normal pattern in bail cases like this?”

CJI also questioned the Solicitor General on if this was Gujarat High Court’s standard practice.

“Give us instances where lady accused in such cases have got such dates from High Court. Either this lady has been made an exception. How can the court give this date? Is this standard practice in Gujarat,” the bench questioned.

To this, SG Mehta replied, “Ladies or gents, the dates are the same.” He further said that “no lady has committed similar type of offences”.

After SG reiterated that he wanted to make more arguments in the case, the bench that was leaning toward granting temporary bail to Setalvad yesterday announced that it will hear this matter on Friday at 2 pm.

In a case where she was detained for allegedly falsifying papers to incriminate innocent persons in the 2002 Gujarat riots proceedings, the top court was considering Setalvad’s appeal for interim relief.

Prior to this, the Gujarat government filed an affidavit in which it informed the apex court that Setalvad was strongly accused of some of the most serious crimes, including criminal conspiracy and the fabrication of false evidence with the express purpose of convicting multiple defendants for the death penalty during the Gujarat riots of 2002.

According to the affidavit of the Gujarat government, the FIR against Setalvad for fabricating evidence connected to the riots is supported by evidence and is not just based on a ruling from a high court.

The affidavit claimed that deliberate attempts were taken to guarantee that all evidence, whether oral and otherwise, was falsified.

Setalvad filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of India against the Gujarat High Court’s ruling dated August 3 that gave the Special Investigation Team (SIT) a deadline of September 19 to respond to bail requests made by Setalvad and former Gujarat Director General of Police (DGP) RB Sreekumar.

After having their bail requests denied by the Ahmedabad City Sessions Court, Setalvad and Sreekumar went to the High Court.

Setalvad and Sreekumar were denied bail on July 30 by the Ahmedabad Sessions Court, which noted that the accused appeared to have intended to “destabilise” the Gujarat administration and disparage the state for their own purposes.

On the basis of a First Information Report (FIR) filed against them according to Sections 468 (forgery for cheating) and 194 (fabricating false evidence with purpose to get conviction for death offences) of the Indian Penal Code, they were detained by the Ahmedabad Police Crime Branch on June 25.

According to the SIT established to look into the case, Setalvad and Sreekumar participated in a larger plot to topple the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the time it was headed by Narendra Modi, who was the Gujarat Chief Minister at the time, at the behest of the late Congress leader Ahmed Patel.

Sanjiv Bhatt, a former IPS officer, is also charged in the matter.

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