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SC Bench says hearing Teesta case was a ‘mistake’

A two-judge Bench of the Supreme Court on Monday admitted that it committed a “mistake” on September 11, 2015 by hearing and passing an order extending interim bail to activist Teesta Setalvad and her husband. A Bench of Justices Anil R. Dave and A.K. Goel said the case was supposed listed to be listed before a three-judge Bench.

In September, the same Bench had extended the > interim protection against arrest to Ms. Setalvad and her husband by four weeks in a case of alleged embezzlement of funds for a museum at Ahmedabad's Gulbarg Society that was devastated in the 2002 riots.

Monday saw the Bench own up to the error when senior advocate Kapil Sibal pushed for a further extension, saying the couple's bail period was coming to an end on October 15. When the Bench refused to hear the plea, Mr. Sibal reminded the court that it was the same bBench which heard and passed the interim order in September.

“We don't know why this matter has come before us... We made a mistake last time... let the matter be posted before the appropriate Bench,” Justice Dave responded.

When Mr. Sibal urged the court about the urgency of the couple's position and how expiry of the existing bail period on October 15 may lead to their arrest, the court recorded the situation in the day's order and directed its Registry for the listing of the case before the three-judge Bench “as soon as possible”.

The apex court had extended Ms. Setalvad relief from arrest while transferring their petition to a three-judge Bench in March this year. The Gujarat Police has accused the couple of embezzling crores of rupees from residents of 2002 Godhra riot-hit Gulbarg society in the name of constructing a memorial in their honour.

The court had first stayed their arrest on February 19, while observing that “personal liberty cannot be put on ventilator”.

In July, the Gujarat Police filed an affidavit opposing the continued anticipatory bail given to Ms. Setalvad and her husband, while reiterating their accusations that the couple had misappropriated charity funds meant for rehabilitation of riots victims for their own personal use.

The affidavit said the couple allegedly diverted funds collected through their trusts - Sabrang Trust and Citizen for Justice and Peace (CJP).

It said the probe into the case of alleged embezzlement of funds for the memorial revealed that expenses of “very personal nature” have been debited by them under the head “Secular Education” or “Legal Aid Expenses”.

It said the probe is supported by evidence like vouchers having dates and amounts incurred on consumption of liquor, dining out and purchase of personal items, from novels to phone and clothes.

The couple has worked in the forefront for the riot victims and has maintained that the State police's actions are clearly driven by political vendetta.

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Printable version | Aug 15, 2020 10:58:19 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sc-bench-calls-sept-11-bail-extension-to-teesta-a-mistake/article7753862.ece

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