A special 3-judge Bench of Supreme Court Saturday night granted interim bail to social activist Teesta Setalvad, staying the Gujarat High Court order to surrender immediately in a case of alleged evidence fabrication in the 2002 Gujarat riots to frame innocent people.
A bench of Justices B R Gavai, A S Bopanna and Dipankar Datta heard the matter in a special sitting after a two-judge vacation bench differed on granting interim protection to Setalvad.
This comes Hours after the Gujarat High Court rejected the regular bail application of Teesta Setalvad and ordered her to surrender immediately.
Supreme Court stayed Gujarat High Court's order.
What did the SC say?
A panel of Justices BR Gavai, AS Bopanna, and Dipankar Datta commenced the hearing of the plea during a special session at 9.15 pm. The highest court directed the case to be presented before a regular panel and provided Setalvad with temporary release until then. Additionally, the Supreme Court halted the Gujarat High Court's order for a duration of one week.
While the proceedings took place, the Supreme Court inquired Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who represented the Gujarat government, regarding the need for urgency to deny a person a seven-day period to contest their bail, considering they had already been out of custody for an extended period. The bench expressed surprise at the actions of the High Court and questioned the reasons for the perceived urgency, asking, "Will the heavens fall if interim protection is granted? We are astonished by the High Court's actions. What is the pressing need?"
Two judge SC bench had disagreements on Setalvad's bail
In the earlier part of the evening, a two-judge panel of the Supreme Court encountered a difference of opinion regarding the granting of relief in Teesta's plea. Consequently, the bench of Justices A S Oka and P K Mishra decided to refer the matter to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) for further consideration. They expressed their disagreement on the issue of providing interim protection to Teesta and requested the CJI to assign the case to a larger bench. This decision was made shortly after the Gujarat High Court rejected Teesta's bail application.
Setalvad was previously arrested in connection with alleged fabrication of evidence and tutoring witnesses in cases related to the 2002 post-Godhra riots.
However, she was protected from arrest until now after she secured interim bail from the Supreme Court in September last year following which she was released from judicial custody.
Case against Setalvad filed on June 24
The case against Setalvad and two others was registered days after the June 24 verdict of the apex court in the Zakia Jafri case.
While dismissing the petition filed by Zakia Jafri whose husband and former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri was killed during the riots, the SC had observed that "it appears to us that a coalesced effort of the disgruntled officials of the State of Gujarat along with others was to create sensation by making revelations which were false to their own knowledge."
All those involved in such abuse of process "need to be in the dock and proceed in accordance with law," the supreme court had said.
2002 Gujarat Riots
The 2002 Gujarat riots were triggered by the torching of a coach of Sabarmati Express by a mob near Godhra station on February 27 that year. Fifty-nine passengers, mostly Hindu Karsevaks returning from Ayodhya, were charred to death in the incident.
Charges against Teesta Setalvad
Setalvad and two others have been booked under Indian Penal Code sections 468, 471 (forgery), 194 (giving or fabricating false evidence with intent to procure conviction of capital offence), 211 (institute criminal proceedings to cause injury), 218 (public servant framing incorrect record or writing with intent to save person from punishment or property from forfeiture), and 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy).
With PTI Inputs