SC pulls up Gujarat govt over delayed listing of Teesta Setalvad's bail plea

Teesta Setalvad.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday wondered why the Gujarat High Court has listed the bail plea of activist Teesta Setalvad for hearing on September 19, six weeks after it sent a notice to the state government seeking a response to her application, and asked the state to inform it by 2 pm on Friday about whether such a precedent existed there.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Uday Umesh Lalit and justices S Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia posted the plea of Setalvad for further hearing on Friday.

Setalvad was arrested for allegedly fabricating evidence to frame "innocent people" in the 2002 Gujarat riots cases.

Chief Justice Lalit orally observed that offences against Setalvad were normal IPC offences, having no bar on grant of bail.

"These are not offences like murder or bodily injury but based on documents like forgery etc. In these matters, the normal idea is that after the period of custody is over, there is nothing for the police to insist on further custody...".

The Chief Justice further queried whether there was any additional material apart from the apex court judgment.

“We will hear this case tomorrow at 2 pm. Give us instances where a lady accused in such cases has got such dates from the high court. Either this lady has been made an exception...How can the court give this date? Is this standard practice in Gujarat?” an apparently displeased CJI asked.

The Gujarat High Court had 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.

An Ahmedabad sessions court had 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 Sreekumar, both arrested in June, are accused of fabricating evidence to frame "innocent people" in the post-Godhra riots cases of 2002.

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, whose husband and former Congress MP Ehsaan Jafri was killed during the riots in Ahmedabad, challenging the SIT's clean chit to 64 people in the riots, including the then chief minister Narendra Modi.

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