Teesta Setalvad granted interim bail by Supreme Court

Court grants relief till bail application is heard by Gujarat High Court

Teesta Setalvad

On September 2, 2022, the Supreme Court granted journalist, educationist and human rights defender Teesta Setalvad interim bail in the case where she faces trumped up charges foisted upon her by a vindictive regime.

The SC bench comprising Chief Justice UU Lalit, S Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia, while granting her bail, observed, “In our view, the appellant is entitled to the release on interim bail.” The court however, directed Setalvad to surrender her passport till the matter is considered by the Gujarat High Court. The court also directed her to “render complete cooperation”. The court further cautioned that they have “considered the matter only from the standpoint of interim bail”, meaning that the order passed today does not reflect on the merits of the case. The court said, “The entire matter on merits shall be considered by the High Court independently and uninfluenced by any observations made by this court.”

Appearing for Setalvad, senior advocate Kapil Sibal reiterated his previous arguments that the First Information Report (FIR) against Setalvad had precipitated from the judgment in the Zakia Jafri Case, and did not contain anything else. Sibal further submitted that the affidavits that are alleged to have been forged had been presented before the court. He further said, “When were the affidavits filed? In 2002-2003. And what happened for the last 20 years? And assuming these are typed affidavits, how is it forgery, how is it fabrication? Offence cannot be made out.” He also pointed out that the allegedly forged affidavits were submitted in a case spearheaded by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). He asked, “These are affidavits filed before Supreme Court supporting NHRC petition for transfer. So NHRC was motivated?”

Meanwhile, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta continued to paint Setalvad as someone with a grudge against the State. “This petitioner has maligned the entire State since 2002, has maligned the entire institutions, says this judge is not trustworthy, that judge is not trustworthy, please stop this,” he pleaded. He then tried to counter Sibal’s submissions by making baseless allegations that Setalvad had been paid to malign the State. “There are powerful people involved,” he claimed vaguely. SG Mehta then claimed Setalvad had allegedly used this ill-gotten wealth to fund Dubai shopping trips and purchase wine!

At this point Sibal pointed out that this was just a malicious attempt to tarnish Setalvad’s good name. As far as allegations made by Raees Khan were concerned, Sibal submitted that he was nothing but a disgruntled ex-employee of Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) whose services had been terminated by the organisation.

The entire order may be read here:

Brief background of the case

Readers would recall that, on June 25, 2022, just a day after the Supreme Court dismissed a Special Leave Petition (PIL) moved by Zakia Jafri seeking a proper investigation into the wider conspiracy behind the 2002 Gujarat carnage, a team of the Gujarat Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) barged into her Mumbai home and detained her.

The petition had been moved by Zakia Jafri, the widow of slain Congress Member of Parliament (MP) Ehsan Jafri, who had been killed during the communal violence in Gulberg Society. Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) secretary Teesta Setalvad was the second petitioner in the case that aimed to pin the responsibility of allowing the violence to continue unabated on the people in power in Gujarat at the time.

But deeming this to be a malicious prosecution, the court had observed in its judgment, “As a matter of fact, all those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law.

The above extract was quoted in a complaint filed on behalf of the State, and today, Teesta Setalvad, a fearless human rights defender stands accused of criminal conspiracy, forgery and giving or fabricating false evidence among other IPC sections. Two former police officers, RB Sreekumar and Sanjiv Bhatt have also been named as her co-conspirators in the FIR. While Bhatt is already in jail under trumped-up charges in a custodial death case, Sreekumar was arrested shortly after Setalvad was picked up.

Setalvad said she was roughed up as she was picked up from her Mumbai home and taken to the Santacruz police station. At about 5:30 P.M, just before being whisked away to Ahmedabad, Setalvad filed a hand written complaint with the Santacruz Police Station saying Police Inspector JH Patel of the ATS Ahmedabad and a lady officer in civil clothes came into her bedroom and assaulted her when she demanded to speak to her lawyer. Setalvad says that she was not shown the First Information Report (FIR) or a warrant till her lawyer arrived.

In her complaint, Setalvad has also stated that the assault left her with a bruise on her left hand, and that she feared for her life.

In Ahmedabad, Setalvad was formally arrested, and taken for a mandatory medical test on Sunday June 26, before being produced before a magistrate. This court remanded her to police custody. At the end of police custody, the Ahmedabad Crime Branch itself told the court that Setalvad’s custodial interrogation was no longer required. The court remanded her to judicial custody thereafter and she has been lodged in Ahmedabad’s Sabarmati Jail ever since. This is when Setalvad moved for bail.

On July 30, the Sessions Court rejected Setalvad’s bail application, following which she moved Gujarat High Court. The HC in turn issued notice in the case on August 3, but set the hearing for September 19. The court did not grant Setalvad any interim relief during this period. Thus, she moved SC.

At the hearing on August 22, the Supreme Court issued notice to the State of Gujarat. More importantly, at the next hearing on August 25, when the State sought more time to file its response, the court reminded it that the petitioner was behind bars. On August 30, the State made a series of vile and baseless allegations against Setalvad.

But at the hearing on September 1, the Supreme Court made a series of observations and asked some important questions about the First Information Report (FIR), the six-week long adjournment given by the Gujarat High court in the matter pertaining to the bail, the “tenor and direction” of the investigation, and the absence of a chargesheet against Setalvad. The court said that it was inclined to grant Setalvad interim relief.


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