Teesta Setalvad Gets Bail, SC Says Probe Machinery Had Advantage Of Custodial Interrogation

The apex court had on September 1, taken some strong views on the decision of the Gujarat HC to adjourn Setalvad’s bail hearing for 6 weeks.

Activist Teesta Setalvad
Activist Teesta Setalvad being taken to Santacruz police station by ATS Gujarat, in Mumbai on Saturday, June 25, 2022. (ANI Photo)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court granted interim bail to activist Teesta Setalvad on Friday, September 2, over two months after she was taken into custody on June 25 on charges of forgery and fabricating evidence. The Bench comprising Chief Justice U U Lalit, Justice S Ravindra Bhat and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia while pronouncing its order said, the investigative machinery had the advantage of custodial interrogation of Setalvad for seven days.

The FIR against Setalvad on IPC sections 468, 194, 211, 218, 120B, had come a day after the apex court had dismissed charges of criminal conspiracy in relation to the 2002 Gujarat riots against Prime Minister Narendra Modi – who was the then chief minister of the violence-hit state.

While pronouncing the order, the Bench said that as was argued by the Solicitor General of India, the case being pending with the High Court of Gujarat, they were not considering if the appellant should be released on bail. According to LiveLaw, what they were considering was from the standpoint whether the custody of the appellant must be insisted upon during the consideration of matter, with the bench deciding that the appellant is entitled to the release on interim bail.

The NGO where Setalvad is secretary, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), had started providing legal assistance to victims of the riots. The case after which she was arrested pertains to that of Zakia Jafri’s petition, the wife of Congress MP Ehsan Jafri who was killed during the riots. Her co-petitioner against Modi and 63 others of a larger conspiracy by high state functionaries, was Setalvad.  

The Gujarat Special Investigation Team (SIT) affidavit stated that Setalvad’s “political objective of the applicant (Setalvad) while enacting this larger conspiracy was dismissal or destabilisation of the elected government. She obtained illegal financial and other benefits and rewards from rival political party in lieu of her attempts to wrongly implicate innocent persons in Gujarat”.

The apex court had on September 1, taken some strong views on the decision of the Gujarat HC to adjourn Setalvad’s bail hearing for 6 weeks. Hearing the matter on August 3, the HC had issued notice, with the next date of hearing for bail returnable on September 19. The SC had also remarked that the complaint against Setalvad was nothing but the judgment of the court.

“Within one day of Supreme Court judgment complaint was filed, you as investigators subjected the lady to custodial interrogation and you were given liberty to do so. These are not offences like murder or bodily injury but these are based on documents like forgery etc. In these matters normal idea is after normal police custody is over, there is nothing for the police to insist on custody and over and above that, she is a lady. So the matter is pending in HC so we just shut our files because it is to be heard on September 19,” the CJI said.