Supreme Court grants interim bail to Teesta Setalvad till Gujarat High Court takes up petition

The apex court added that the investigating agency had advantage of her custodial interrogation for 7 days.

Updated - September 03, 2022 01:44 am IST

Published - September 02, 2022 04:00 pm IST - New Delhi

Supreme Court, on September 2, 2022, granted interim bail to social activist Teesta Setalvad.

Supreme Court, on September 2, 2022, granted interim bail to social activist Teesta Setalvad. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The Supreme Court on September 2, 2022 allowed activist Teesta Setalvad interim bail in a case of alleged forgery and fabrication of records in connection with the 2002 Gujarat riots cases.

A three-judge Special Bench led by Chief Justice of India U.U. Lalit said a case of interim bail is "evidently made out" on consideration of the facts that she is a woman who has already undergone seven days of custodial interrogation. The court noted that Ms. Setalvad has been in custody for over two months since her arrest in Mumbai by the Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad on June 25. The court noted that the offences alleged against her pertain to the year 2002 and, as per the assertions made by the State, to documents presented till 2012.

The Bench, in its order, said her interim bail would continue till the Gujarat High Court decided her pending application for regular bail in the case.

The Supreme Court directed Gujarat to produce Ms. Setalvad before the Ahmedabad Court concerned on September 3 for release on interim bail.

The lower court may subject her to interim bail conditions it "may deem appropriate to ensure her presence and participation in the pending proceedings". She would have to surrender her passport to be kept in the safe custody of the lower court while the High Court considered the question of regular bail. She should render complete cooperation in the investigation, the apex court directed.

On a request by senior advocate Kapil Sibal and advocate Aparna Bhat, appearing for Ms. Setalvad, the apex court directed the lower court not to insist on local security as a precondition for her release on interim bail. The court said she should be released on providing cash security or bond.

"It speaks volumes that a lady of her influence thinks she may not find a single local person in the entire State of Gujarat to stand security for her," Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said after the order was dictated by the court.

"That may equally speak volumes about the State," Mr. Sibal retorted.

"We are not concerned about anything other than the facts of the case," Chief Justice Lalit quelled the exchange between the lawyers.

The Bench, also comprising Justices S. Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia, clarified that it was only concerned about the grant of interim bail during the pendency of the case in the Gujarat High Court and did not not go into the submissions made by Ms. Setalvad on the merits of the case against her.

The Bench left it completely to the High Court to look into her pending plea for regular bail, "independently and uninfluenced" by the observations made by the Supreme Court in its interim bail order.

The court further made clear that the interim bail order in favour of Ms. Setalavad should not be "used" in favour of her co-accused. When the occasion arises for them, their pleas for bail would be considered on its own individual merits.

"It is further clarified that the interim bail granted to the appellant (Ms. Setalvad) is based on peculiar facts, including the fact that the appellant happens to be a lady," the apex court noted.

On July 30, the trial court had refused Ms. Setalavad bail. Following which, she had applied to the High Court for regular bail and, in addition, interim bail during the pendency of her plea for regular bail.

In an order on August 3, the High Court did not give her interim bail while issuing notice to the State and posting the case on September 19.

Ms. Setalvad had appealed to the Supreme Court against both the lower court and High Court orders.

"Having considered the circumstances on record, in our view, the High Court ought to have considered the prayer for release on interim bail during the pendency of the matter before it… The essential ingredients of the investigation, including custodial interrogation, having been completed, the matter assumed a complexion when the release of the appellant on interim bail till the matter was considered by the High Court was evidently made out… The appellant is entitled to the relief of interim bail," the Supreme Court ordered.

When the session began, Mr. Mehta produced a chart of other cases in which the Gujarat High Court had given dates in September and even October, like in Ms. Setalvad's case. He accused her of orchestrating a "maligning campaign" since 2002. He reiterated that the apex court should not intervene and, instead, allow her to take her chances in the High Court.

Mr. Sibal said his client acted in larger public interest for the riot victims. He said she is a 60-year-old woman whom the State thinks of as its "number one public enemy".

"They say I am a powerful person. How can I be more powerful than the State?" he asked.

Welcoming the bail order, Congress communication chief Jairam Ramesh tweeted, “The grant of interim bail to Teesta Setalvad by the Supreme Court is welcome. There are a number of other activists, dissenters and critics of the Modi Sarkar who are deserving of such relief from foisted cases”.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.