The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed for a day the arrest of activist Teesta Setalvad and her husband, Javed Anand, after the Gujarat high court rejected their anticipatory bail plea in a case of alleged embezzlement of funds for Gujarat riot victims.
A police team returned from the doorstep of Setalvad’s Mumbai home after the former journalist, a severe critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, rushed to the apex court in the Capital minutes after the high court decision.
Authorities say Setalvad, Anand and others misappropriated around Rs 1.5 crore collected through their NGOs for setting up a museum at Ahmedabad’s Gulbarg Society where close to 70 people were killed in the 2002 communal conflagration.
Appearing on behalf of the couple, former union minister and senior advocate Kapil Sibal told a bench headed by Chief Justice of India HL Dattu that the Gujarat police was “hell-bent” on arresting them. He asked the court to hear the matter urgently, terming it an “extraordinary situation”.
The bench said the couple would be protected from arrest till the matter was heard on Friday. It also allowed them to file their appeal against the HC order.
The complaint against Setalvad, which she has termed “politically motivated”, was filed by a riot victim from Gulbarg Society after the proposed museum failed to take off.
In a scathing indictment, the high court said the activist was not cooperating with the investigation and her custodial interrogation would be “in public interest” and “in the interest of justice”.
A mob massacred dozens of people including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri at Gulbarg Society in February 2002, after 59 people – mainly Hindu pilgrims returning from Ayodhya –died in a train fire near Gujarat’s Godhra railway station.
Setalvad was at the forefront of the cases filed by 2002 riot victims and was a vocal detractor of Narendra Modi while he was chief minister of Gujarat.
(With inputs from Mahesh Langa in Ahmedabad)