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Teesta Setalvad Bail: 2 SC Judges Differ on Interim Protection; Refer Matter to CJI

The social activist had moved the apex court after being denied bail by Gujarat HC on a case of alleged fabrication of evidence in Gujarat 2002 riots cases.
supreme court

Image credit: PTI

New Delhi: Soon after being denied regular bail by Gujarat High Court, social activist Teesta Setalvad moved the Supreme Court on Saturday but the judges differed on granting interim protection to her in a case of alleged fabrication of evidence to frame innocent people in 2002 Gujarat riots cases.

A bench of justices Abhay S Oka and Prashant Kumar Mishra, which heard the matter in a special hearing, urged the Chief Justice of India to assign the matter to a larger bench.

"There is a disagreement between us on the question of grant of bail. So we request the Chief Justice to assign this matter to a larger bench," it said.

 Earlier in the day, the Gujarat High Court had rejected Setalvad's regular bail plea. Justice Nirzar Desai directed her to surrender immediately as she is out of jail after securing interim bail from the apex court in September last year.

"As the applicant is out on interim bail granted by the Supreme Court, she is directed to surrender immediately," the court said in its order.

Enlarging her on bail will send a false signal that everything in a democratic country is so lenient that “even if a person goes to the extent of making efforts to unseat the then establishment and disrepute the image of the then chief minister to see that he is sent to jail”, the person can be released on bail, the high court said.

This will “encourage others also to act in a similar manner”, it said.

 “Prima facie, this court is of the view that, today, if the applicant like this is enlarged on bail, that will deepen and widen the communal polarisation,” the high court observed.

The court is also of prima facie view that Setalvad - a “very influential person” - can go to any extent to achieve her agenda as she did in the past “by influencing the witnesses and by aggressively propagating against government and its machinery as well as the then chief minister”, the HC said.

Setalvad was taken into custody on June 25 last year along with former Gujarat Director General of Police R B Sreekumar and ex-IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt in a case registered by Ahmedabad crime branch police for allegedly fabricating evidence to frame innocent people in the post-Godhra riots cases.

An Ahmedabad sessions court had on July 30, 2022, rejected the bail applications of Setalvad and Sreekumar in the case, saying their release will send a message to wrongdoers that a person can level allegations with impunity and get away with it.

The High Court had on August 3, 2022, issued a notice to the state government on the bail plea of Setalvad and fixed the matter for hearing on September 19.

Meanwhile, she moved the Supreme Court (SC) for interim bail after the high court refused to consider her plea.

The apex court, on September 2 last year, granted her interim bail and asked her to surrender her passport with the trial court till the time the Gujarat High Court decided her regular bail plea.

The top court also asked her to cooperate with the probe agency in the investigation of the case.

Setalvad walked out of jail on September 3. 

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