SC Seeks Response From Gujarat Govt on Activist Teesta Setalvad's Bail Plea; Hearing on Aug 25
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday sought a response from the Gujarat government on a bail plea by activist Teesta Setalvad, arrested for allegedly fabricating evidence to frame "innocent people" in the 2002 Gujarat riots cases.
A bench headed by Justice U U Lalit issued notice to the state on the plea filed by Setalvad, who was arrested in June in the case and posted the matter for hearing on August 25.
The Gujarat High Court, on August 3, issued a notice to the state government on the bail plea of Setalvad and fixed the matter for hearing on September 19.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Setalvad, told the apex court that allegations in the FIR are recitation of proceedings that had happened and culminated in the judgement of the apex court on a petition filed by Zakia Jafri.
The top court had on June 24 dismissed a plea filed by Zakia Jafri, the wife of former Congress MP Ehsaan Jafri who was killed in Ahmedabad during the riots, triggered by the torching of a coach of Sabarmati Express by a mob near Godhra station on February 27, 2002.
As many as 59 passengers were charred to death in the incident.
Sibal told the bench, also comprising Justices S R Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia, that beyond such recitation, nothing has been alleged against Setalvad.
At the outset, Justice Lalit said that as a lawyer, he had represented some of the accused in the Sohrabuddin matter.
"I do not know whether this petitioner has taken any stand in connection with those matters or not," Justice Lalit told Sibal.
Sibal said as far as the petitioner is concerned, they have no issue at all.
The bench noted that Sibal has submitted that his client has no objection to this bench hearing this plea.
"It is true that the trial court has rejected your bail application but the matter at your instance is presently pending in the high court," the bench observed.
Sibal said the genesis of the case emanates from the apex court order and that is why the FIR has been filed.
"We will issue notice …and then consider any relief which can be granted to you while the matter is still pending in the high court," the bench observed.
Sibal said the petitioner wants interim bail.
The bench initially said it would take up the matter for hearing on August 30.
When Sibal requested, "Can it be a little early", the bench said it would list the matter on August 25.
"Issue notice. Considering the facts and the circumstances of the case on record, let the notice be made returnable on August 25," the bench said while granting liberty to serve standing counsel for the state.
The apex court had on August 16 agreed to list on August 22 for hearing the bail plea of Setalvad.
A sessions court at Ahmedabad, on July 30, rejected the bail applications of Setalvad and former Director General of Police R B Sreekumar in the case, saying that if they were released, it will send a message to wrongdoers that a person can level allegations with impunity and get away with it.
Setalvad and former Director General of Police (DGP) R B Sreekumar, both arrested in June, are accused of fabricating evidence to frame "innocent people" in the post-Godhra riots cases.
They are lodged in the Sabarmati central jail. Sreekumar has also moved the high court for bail.
Former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, the third accused in the case, has not applied for bail. Bhatt was already in jail for another criminal matter when he was arrested in this case.
They were arrested by the Ahmedabad city crime branch in June after a First Information Report (FIR) was registered against them under Indian Penal Code sections 468 (forgery for cheating) and 194 (fabricating false evidence with intent to procure conviction for capital offences).
Mumbai-based Setalvad and Sreekumar were arrested within a couple of days after the Supreme Court on June 24 dismissed a petition filed by Zakia Jafri.
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