The Supreme Court on Friday, 2 September, granted interim bail to activist Teesta Setalvad in connection with the 2002 Gujarat riots conspiracy case, a day after the top court came down heavily on the Gujarat government.
The top court further said in its order:
"The entire matter, on merits, shall be considered by the High Court, independently or uninfluenced by any of the observations made by this court."
Setalvad has been asked to surrender her passport for the duration of the pendency of the matter in the high court.
"We are only considering from the standpoint whether during the consideration of the application, the custody must be insisted upon or whether she be granted the relief of interim bail," the court also said.
The court, on a request by the Additional Solicitor General appearing for the state, further said that its decision was not to have bearing on the pleas of Setalvad's co-accused.
"It is further meant here that the relief of interim bail is granted to the appellant in the peculiar facts including that the appellant is a lady. This shall not be taken to be a reflection and shall not be used by the other accused as and when such occasion arises. The submissions on behalf of the other accused should be considered on their own merits."
Setalvad is expected to be released on interim bail on Saturday, after the top court on her counsel's request said:
"It shall be open to the concerned court to consider interim bail accepting cash security instead of insisting on local surety."
On Thursday, a bench led by Chief Justice UU Lalit said that none of the offences that Setalvad was charged with could bar her from getting bail.
"There is no offence in this case which comes with a rider that bail cannot be granted like UAPA, POTA. These are normal IPC offences. These are not bodily offences, these are offences of documents filed in court," the bench had said, as per Live Law.
It also said that in such cases, after the initial period of police custody, nothing should stop investigators from continuing their probe without custody, adding that as per the law, a woman is entitled to favourable treatment.
Setalvad had challenged the Gujarat High Court's rejection of her interim bail in connection with the case, in which she was arrested for allegedly fabricating evidence to frame "innocent people" in the 2002 Gujarat riots case.
The apex court, while adjourning the matter till 2 pm on Friday, 2 September, also asked why the state's high court had given such a long adjournment in the case pertaining to the bail.
"In a matter like this, the High Court issues a notice on 3 August and makes it returnable by 19 September. Give us a case where a lady has been involved in a case like this and the court made it returnable by six weeks," CJI Lalit said.
The court also asked why no charge sheet was filed although the petitioner had been in custody for over two months since 25 June.
It also pointed out that the FIR was filed soon after the Supreme Court dismissed Zakia Jafri's case and it was based on a complaint that cited the top court's judgment in Jafri's plea challenging the SIT probe in the Gujarat riots case.
Further, it said that the offences alleged were not serious, like murder or bodily injury, but pertain to alleged forgery of documents filed in court.
On 22 August, the apex court sought a response from the Gujarat government on the bail plea of Setalvad, who was arrested in June in the case.
Setalvad has been booked under the following sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC):
468 IPC: Forgery for purpose of cheating
471 IPC: Using as genuine a forged document or electronic record
194 IPC: Giving or fabricating false evidence with intent to procure conviction of capital offence
211 IPC: False charge of offence made with intent to injure
218 IPC: Public servant framing incorrect record or writing with intent to save person from punishment or property from forfeiture
120 B IPC: Punishment of criminal conspiracy
In her bail plea, Setalvad's lawyer had said, "The petitioner strongly believes that she has been targeted by the state as she raised critical issues before this Court challenging the administration."
In its order on 24 June, the apex court upheld a clean chit given to Prime Minister (and former Gujarat CM) Narendra Modi and others in connection with the 2002 riots case.
(With inputs from Live Law.)
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