Supreme Court on Friday granted interim bail to social activist Teesta Setalvad and directed authorities to release her tomorrow after the formalities were complete. The Supreme Court observed that Setalvad has been in custody for more than two months and the police machinery had the advantage of custodial interrogation for seven days.
The bench led by Chief Justice of India UU Lalit directed Setalvad to surrender her passport before the concerned court which will also decide on bail conditions it sees fit. "It would be open to the concerned court to consider interim bail by accepting cash security instead of insisting on local surety," the bench said.
"In our view the Gujarat High Court ought to have considered the application for interim bail during the pendency of the matter," the bench said while granting bail.
The Bench pointed out that this order was passed considering the peculiar facts of this case particularly since the accused is a lady.
On Thursday, the bench expressed several grave concerns with respect to this case. The top court was particularly concerned over the inordinate delay of the high court in posting a bail matter for hearing six weeks after issuing notice, especially in a situation where the accused was a lady.
SC also observed that the crimes in question were related to documents and were not related to any bodily harm. She has already been in jail for two months. There is no bar preventing her from seeking bail and under the normal provisions of the Indian Penal Code, as a lady was entitled to preferential treatment and bail, SC had said.
Is Gujarat Police planning to file a chargesheet? SC had asked on Thursday while pointing out that the deadline was coming up for the same. The bench today again asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta—he was representing the Gujarat government—whether the Police were able to elicit any information from her while they had Setalvad in custody.
The court had then observed that the FIR filed against Setalvad and two others—Sreekumar and ex-IPS Sanjiv Bhatt—was entirely based on the Supreme Court's June 24 judgment that upheld the SIT report in the 2002 Gujarat Riots case. In its June 24 verdict, Supreme Court said those who abused the process of law to keep the pot boiling must be persecuted in accordance with the law.
The Gujarat Police on June 25 had arrested Setalvad and ex-DGP RB Sreekumar for falsifying records pertaining to the 2002 Gujarat Riots. The arrest came a day after the Supreme Court upheld the SIT report and gave Prime Minister Narendra Modi a clean chit for his alleged role in orchestrating the communal riots when he was state chief minister.
An Ahmedabad sessions court on July 30 said it appeared that Setalvad and ex-DGP RB Sreekumar used victim Zakia Jafri as "a tool" to defame then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, by accusing his government of sponsoring the 2002 Godhra Riots while denying them bail.
Gujarat High Court on August 3 issued notice on Setalvad's plea and posted the matter for hearing on September 19. Setalvad had then moved SC.
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