Teesta Setalvad gets bail and the Supreme court voids the order of the high court

Teesta Setalvad gets bail and the Supreme court voids the order of the high court
Teesta Setalvad gets bail and the Supreme court voids the order of the high court

Teesta Setalvad gets bail: During the 2002 communal riots cases, Setalvad is accused of fabricating evidence and tutoring witnesses to secure convictions for top officials in Gujarat. Teesta Setalvad was granted bail by the Supreme Court on Wednesday, overturning a Gujarat high court order that denied her relief on July 1, calling it “perverse” and “contradictory.”

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Setalvad has been charged with manipulating evidence and coaching witnesses in order to have top Gujarati officials convicted in instances involving the 2002 sectarian disturbances. A three-judge Supreme Court bench led by justice BR Gavai harshly disagreed with the high court’s single judge’s criticism of Setalvad, believing that the state had failed to establish a compelling reason for her to be interrogated in a jail setting after the top court granted her interim bail on September 2. She was never called in for questioning after the top court’s decision.

It is true that the petitioner has not been contacted for an inquiry after being released on temporary bail (on September 2). We do not consider the appellant’s incarceration essential given that the majority of the evidence is documentary in nature and a charge sheet has been submitted, the bench, which also included justices AS Bopanna and Dipankar Datta, said.

Even the state’s assertion that she had a history of crime was disproven by the court, which inquired: “Has there been a conviction yet? What prior crimes are there? Is she connected to a murder investigation?”

The court went on to order: The impugned order (of the high court) is quashed and set aside. The appellant is directed to be continued on bail granted on September 2. The passport of the appellant already surrendered shall continue to remain in custody of the sessions court.

Setalvad was arrested on June 25 last year, a day after a Supreme Court gave judgment denied any larger conspiracy behind the 2002 riots. The judgment, which came on a petition filed by Gujarat riots victim Zakia Ehsan Jafri said: “All those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law.”

This became the basis for the Gujarat police to begin a probe against Setalvad and others, and the judgment was quoted in the FIR lodged against her for forgery (IPC Section 468), giving false evidence with purpose to secure conviction of capital offence (IPC Section 194), and criminal conspiracy (Section 120B), among other provisions of the penal code.

Setalvad went to the Gujarat high court on July 30 after having her bail request denied by an Ahmedabad local court. On August 3, the Gujarat High Court issued a notice about her appeal; nevertheless, it declined to grant her interim bail until the matter was eventually resolved. As a result, the activist went to the Supreme Court, where she was granted an interim bail. By holding a late-night meeting and staying the high court ruling from earlier in the day on July 1, this top court panel spared Setalvad from arrest while her appeal of the judgement was being heard.

On Wednesday, the bench said that it was “at pains” to notice how the high court handled the situation. Referring to a section of the high court order where the single judge declared that Setalvad had a prima facie case against her because she had not brought any legal action to have the FIR dismissed, the top court stated, “If the observation as recorded by the judge is accepted, no application for bail at the preliminary hearing could be entertained unless the petitioner files proceedings for quashing of the case under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (). The results, to say the least, are absolutely perverse.

The bench found a conflict in the high court’s ruling, saying: On the one hand, the judge claims it is outside of his purview to determine whether there is a prima facie case unless the defendant challenges the charge sheet, and on the other hand, the judge claims there are statements of witnesses like Rais Khan (a former Setalvad employee) to support a finding of guilt under Section 194 IPC. The sequence contradicts itself.

In addition, the court noted that the conditions that prevailed when interim bail was granted on September 2 remain applicable. She was granted bail under Section 437 of the Criminal Procedure Code (providing an exception for women), most of her evidence was documentary, and her custodial interrogation was already complete.

The Gujarat police opposed the award of bail, calling Setalvad’s alleged acts “heinous” and claiming that she had sought to gain the false conviction for charges carrying a death or life sentence. The Gujarat police were represented by assistant solicitor general (ASG) SV Raju. He said that the top court-appointed special investigation team (SIT), which looked into the rioting cases, discovered multiple witnesses who showed up with written statements and admitted that Setalvad had provided them.

The judge questioned the state, noting that the allegedly fraudulent testimony by witnesses was provided to the SIT between 2008 and 2011, “What were you doing up until now? What research, within a day after the judgement (on June 24), led you to the conclusion that she had committed a crime serious enough to merit her arrest?

After Setalvad’s plea to be added as a party to defend the accusations against her was vigorously contested by the state and denied by the court, the court further inquired with the ASG as to whether it was appropriate to rely on the observations made in the Supreme Court judgement of June 24 on the bigger plot.

Senior attorney Kapil Sibal argued for Setalvad and criticised the high court’s decision to refuse bail. You are completely upending the bail jurisprudence. Due to the fact that we have not requested the quashing of the FIR, bail is denied. Even when there is no proof beyond a reasonable doubt of my culpability, it is rejected.

“There is no finding against me (Setalvad) in the June 24 judgement,” Sibal stated after presenting the court with the information acquired by the state police. It is not the Gujarat police’s place to claim that the affidavits are false. If the affidavit is false, there must be a dispute between the maker and the court. How did it come to be a dispute between me and the government?

Setalvad was charged by the Gujarat police with conspiring to blame the casualties during the riots, which resulted in over a thousand deaths, on the then-chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, who is now the prime minister of India, as well as other senior members of the state government and prominent members of the ruling party and accused her of destabilising an elected government by tutoring witnesses and falsifying evidence. She has denied all charges.

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