Supreme Court gives Gujarat government two days to reply on Teesta bail plea
Activist Teesta Setalvad was arrested on June 25 by the Gujarat police for allegedly fabricating evidence, and tutoring witnesses, in the 2002 Gujarat riots case to secure conviction against the accused.
The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Gujarat government to file its reply to activist Teesta Setalvad’s bail plea by Saturday and ordered her lawyers to file a response by Monday.
Setalvad was arrested on June 25 by the Gujarat police for allegedly fabricating evidence, and tutoring witnesses, in the 2002 Gujarat riots case to secure conviction against the accused.
The top court had issued a notice to the Gujarat government seeking its reply on Setalvad’s plea on August 22. On Thursday, the state told the court it needed more time to file a response. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Gujarat, said their response was ready but needed modification.
“The petitioner (Setalvad) is behind bars. You can file your reply and supply a copy today,” the bench of justices Uday Umesh Lalit, S Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia asked Mehta, who then told the court that there was nothing special about this case as the matter involves a serious offence.
Mehta asked the court if the matter could be taken up on Monday. Permitting time, the bench said, “Solicitor General Tushar Mehta assures that the responses shall be filed on or before Saturday. Reply affidavit (by petitioner), if any, be filed by Monday. Let the matter be listed on Tuesday.”
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Setalvad on Thursday, told the apex court that even he was not in a position to argue the case with several special bench cases listed during the day. He agreed to file a response by Monday but said, “Every extra day’s adjournment is wrong.”
Mehta replied that the custody of the petitioner is lawful and as per law.
The case was registered against Setalvad a day after the Supreme Court judgment on June 24 that found no larger conspiracy behind the 2002 Gujarat riots, as alleged by riots victim Zakia Jafri, the widow of Congress MP Ehsan Jafri who was killed in the violence. Setalvad had filed an intervention application supporting Zakia’s allegations, accusing high-ranking politicians and officials in the state for the riots.
The bench, on an earlier date, had posted the matter on Thursday to examine whether any relief could be given to the petitioner as an interim measure, while her bail plea is pending in the Gujarat high court.
Setalvad approached the top court against the dismissal of her bail plea by a city court in Ahmedabad on July 30, almost four weeks after it was filed. She then moved the high court against this order. The notice on her plea was issued on August 3, but the high court kept the next date of hearing on September 19.
She argued that the delay in deciding her bail clearly violated Supreme Court orders on expeditious disposal of such petitions as the issue was one of the liberty of citizens. Moreover, in her petition filed through advocate Aparna Bhat, she alleged, “The petitioner strongly believes that she has been targeted by the state as she raised critical issues before this court challenging the administration.”
The top court order of June 24 stated that the petitioner had the “audacity” to question the integrity of special investigation team (SIT) which probed the riots cases under the monitoring of the Supreme Court, and every functionary involved in the process with an intention to “keep the pot boiling” for an obvious ulterior design.
It then suggested, “All those involved in such abuse of process need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law.”
On Thursday, Sibal told SC that the FIR lodged against Setalvad on June 25 reproduced this portion from the judgment verbatim without making any further allegation. The FIR was under offences of forgery (Section 468), fraudulently using forged document as genuine (Section 471), criminal conspiracy (Section 120B), fabricating false evidence to procure conviction (Section 194), among other provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Along with Setalvad, the Gujarat government has named sacked IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt and former DGP RB Sreekumar in the FIR.