The Bombay High Court on Friday refused to grant anticipatory bail to social activists Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand who have been booked by the Gujarat police on charges of cheating and breach of trust in a matter related to an alleged museum which was to be constructed at Gulbarg Society in Ahmedabad. The couple was however granted transit anticipatory bail for four weeks.
They have been directed to appear before a Gujarat court within this period.
“I am inclined to grant transit bail, but territorial jurisdiction is an impediment (for granting anticipatory bail). It is for you to go before the Gujarat court,” Justice Mridula Bhatkar told the couple.
The court had granted interim relief to them on January 10, 2014 protecting them from arrest till Friday. The prosecution had been given three weeks to file a reply to the application.
On Friday, the judge disposed off the application after the prosecution argued that the plea has no maintainability in the Bombay High Court, as the case has been registered in Gujarat.
“I am of the view that it is a matter of judicial propriety that territorial jurisdiction is to be kept in mind in respect of powers of every high court. Thus, without going into the merits of the matter, I grant transit anticipatory bail for a period of four weeks to the applicant accused to move before the appropriate forum. It will come to an end on February 28,” Justice Bhatkar said.
Ms. Setalvad’s counsel argued that since she is a resident of Maharashtra, and since Sabrang Trust is registered in Mumbai, the Bombay High Court had the jurisdiction to grant anticipatory bail to her.
“I am not running away from Gujarat court,” she told the court. But the court maintained that she had to remain present before a Gujarat court. “This court being Bombay High Court of Maharashtra, has no territorial jurisdiction over Gujarat,” the judge observed.
A First Information Report (FIR) was registered in the DCP police station in Ahmedabad this month, allegedly at the behest of a former resident of Gulbarg Society who claimed that Ms. Setalvad, Mr. Anand, Tanvir Jafri and two others had embezzled funds to the tune of Rs. 1.5 crore which were meant for the construction of a memorial.
According to the FIR, the office bearers of Ms. Setalvad's NGO, Citizens for Justice and Peace, and portal Sabrang have been booked under sections 438 of CrPC, 72(A) of Information Technology Act, and 406, 420 and 120B of the IPC.