Supreme Court defers Teesta Setalvad’s arrest till February 19th

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In a cheating case filed against TeestaSetalvad and her husband, JavedAnand, the Supreme Court granted temporary relief to them by deferring their arrest till February 19. However, it also placed on record that the allegations levelled against the social activist and her spouse, were grave. Consequently, the Court was vehement in emphasising that it would not allow them to politicize the issue.

Senior counsel KapilSibal, representing the couple, asked more time for filing additional documents, in order to counter the allegations of cheating, misappropriationa and breach of trust. A bench led by Justice S J Mukhopadhaya, while hearing a petition against the couple, charging them with embezzling funds required to be spent on building a memorial for the 2002 Gujarat riot victims, observed that under no circumstances will it be influenced by any extraneous considerations or afford any kind of favours to anybody. The Court made it clear that it will make sure that no injustice is done to either party even if relief were to flow to only one of them. Serious charges have been laid against the couple, which involve taking undue benefit of a set of people embroiled in tragic circumstances and the Court guaranteed that Ms.Setalvad will be treated like an ordinary citizen.

On Thursday, the Gujarat High Court had rejected the anticipatory bail sought by TeestaSetalvad. Consequently, she approached the Supreme Court asking for relief. When Mr.Sibal observed that she was fighting against the might of the state, and hence, the Bench should consider her petition favourably, the Court cut him short tocurtly tell him that the present hearing is only restricted to the matter of anticipatory bail and not the entire gamut of charges against her. Hence, the senior counsel should refrain from politicizing the issue.

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The FIR filed against the couple pointed out that they had collected money from overseas donor by showing photographs of victims of 2002 Gujarat riots. The money was collected in order to build a memorial in name of the victims; however, the FIR noted that the couple had embezzled the money instead of spending it on the memorial. Seeing the Court’s reluctance, even Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising, not a counsel in the matter, stood up to interfere by stating that even a multiple murder convict is entitled to getting a bail and as such, it is unfathomable that bail is not granted in this case. However, the Court asked her to take her place as she was not a counsel in the case and should be aware that she cannot address the Court in such a manner.

Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing on behalf of the Gujarat Government pointed out that TeestaSetalvad had wasted the embezzled amount on extravaganza such as expensive clothes and shoes. Interestingly enough, despite the Court’s previous warning, ASG Indira Jaising, stood up yet again, out of turn and abruptly disrupting the Court proceedings by throwing a stinging barb at the Prime Minister NarendraModi’s chic designer suit that had created a controversy in the media for being too expensive and too self-centred. However, the interruption irritated the Court which asked Ms.Jaisingh to resign to her place and maintain the decorum of the Court. The Court deferred the proceedings and the couple’s arrest till the next date of the hearing i.e. 19th of February.

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by Siddhartha Singh