Supreme Court grants Teesta Setalvad interim bail; stays Gujarat HC order

In September 2022, the Supreme Court had her granted interim bail and she had approached the Gujarat High Court for the regular bail. Her request was denied on Saturday, 1 July 2023

Teesta Setalvad
Teesta Setalvad

Ashlin Mathew

A three-judge bench granted Teesta Setalvad interim bail for a week in order to allow her to file her submission and stayed the Gujarat High Court order.

The Supreme Court three-judge bench headed by Justice BR Gavai and comprising Justices AS Bopanna and Dipankar Datta granted Teesta Setalvad interim bail for a week and noted that the case would be posted before a regular bench.

The bench said that the Supreme Court registry will obtain orders from the CJI for listing bail plea of Setalvad before appropriate bench.

The bench noted that they were not inclined to go into the merits of the matter. "In that view of the matter, without considering anything on merits of the matter, finding that the learned Single Judge was not correct in granting even some protection, we grant stay of the impugned order passed by the High Court for a period of one week from today," stated the order.

The bench, which heard the case at 9.15pm, questioned Solicitor General Tushar Mehta as to what the urgency was in the case that Setalvad couldn’t be given a few days before surrendering so that she could approach the appropriate court. Mehta alleged that Setalvad was misusing the law and had allegedly fabricated the case.

The bench noted that normally they would not have considered this request, but the earlier bench led by the then CJI UU Lalit had taken into account the fact that the petitioner was a woman who was entitled to special protection under Section 437 of the CrPC.

"We find that, taking into consideration this fact, the learned Single Judge ought to have granted at least some protection so that the petitioner has sufficient time to challenge the order passed by the learned Single Judge before this Court," observed the bench in its order.

Earlier in the evening, a Supreme Court vacation bench of Justices Abhay S Oka and Prashant Kumar Mishra could not agree on granting interim bail to Setalvad in connection with the 2002 Gujarat riots case and requested Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud to constitute a larger bench to hear the matter.

The two-judge bench had observed that Setalvad should have been granted some time by the Gujarat High Court before she could surrender. 

In September 2022, the Supreme Court had her granted interim bail and she had approached the Gujarat High Court for the regular bail. Her request was denied on Saturday, 1 July 2023. Teesta Setalvad had approached the Supreme Court after the Gujarat High Court had ordered her to surrender immediately.

Appearing for Setalvad in the High Court, senior advocate Mihir Thakore, requested Justice Nirzar Desai to stay the operation of the verdict for a period of 30 days but Desai rejected the request. The Gujarat High Court had observed that granting Setalvad bail would “deepen and widen communal polarisation when we are heading towards progress of the country with an effort to strengthen communal harmony and brotherhood”.

Setalvad along with co-accused former IPS officer RB Sreekumar had been arrested on June 25 last year for allegedly fabricating evidence against the then Gujarat chief minister (now the Prime Minister) Narendra Modi and others. 

The FIR against her was registered by the Gujarat police last year, a day after Setalvad's plea alleging a larger conspiracy in Gujarat riots was dismissed by the Supreme Court. Setalvad had challenged the closure report filed by SIT disregarding the allegations against Narendra Modi over his role in the Gujarat anti-Muslim riots of 2002.

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Published: 01 Jul 2023, 10:35 PM