Mumbai : In a breather to social activist Teesta Setalvad and her husband, the Bombay High Court on Friday granted the duo 17-day interim relief from arrest in a CBI case, wherein it has been alleged that her company received Rs 1.8 crore from abroad without mandatory approval from Centre.
Justice Mridula Bhatkar, while granting Teesta and her husband Javed Anand interim protection from arrest till August 10, said the duo has already got protection from the Sessions court.
Teesta and Anand moved the high court seeking anticipatory bail after a special CBI court on Friday rejected their pre-arrest bail pleas and also refused to extend the interim relief granted to them earlier on July 17.
“At this stage I do not want to go into merits. Is there any chance of the accused persons absconding? If no, then interim protection can be granted for a period of two weeks,” Justice Bhatkar said.
The court, however, directed Teesta and her husband to appear before the office of Economic Offences Wing of the CBI on July 27 and 30 and on August 3 and 6 for recording their statement. But the court refused to concede the CBI’s demand to direct the duo to appear before
the agency daily. “They (Teesta and Javed) have been appearing before you (CBI) since July 17. You must have done some investigation. Everyday appearance is not required,” Justice Bhatkar said.
Public Prosecutor Sandeep Shinde, appearing for CBI, argued that the offence was of a serious nature and custodial interrogation was required.
Soon after the CBI court rejected her bail pleas, Teesta told the court that she was shocked and aggrieved. “I am shocked and aggrieved by the verdict as this is a petty offence. My sympathisers feel that this is an attempt (by the government) to intimidate and possibly eliminate us,” she said. The CBI had on July 8 registered a case against Teesta and Anand alleging that her firm Sabrang Communication and Publishing Pvt Limited received around 2.9 lakh USD in foreign donations in violation of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act.
According to the agency, SCPPL was not registered under FCRA for collecting money from abroad and the amount of nearly Rs 1.8 crore (2.9 lakh USD) was, therefore, received in violation of the Act as the organisation needed to seek prior approval from the Union Home Ministry.
Teesta and her husband, through their lawyer, had told the special CBI court that they were innocent and were falsely implicated. Her advocate Mihir Desai told the court that the only reason why the agency wanted to arrest them was to humiliate them for their work in Gujarat. However, CBI in their reply, last Friday, had said that the motive behind the transfer of foreign contribution to SCPPL reflected interference in the internal security and activities of India.
The CBI had also told the court that when their premises were searched on July 14 this year there was total resistance and non-cooperation from their side. “During the search, an agreement dated September 22, 2006, between the Ford Foundation and the SCPPL was seized which clearly showed that the remittances were grants. There is no mention of any ‘consultancy’ therein,” the reply had said.