Supreme Court Sides With Liberty; Stays the Arrest of Teesta Setalvad and Her Husband

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Upholding TeestaSetalvad’s plea, the Supreme Court on Thursday, further extended the stay on her arrest in case which involved allegations of embezzlement of funds relating to building of a memorial for 2002 Gujarat riots victims, at the Gulbarg Society, Ahemdabad. TeestaSetalvad’s husband, JavedAnand, who has also been implicated in the same case was granted the same relief. Earlier, the Supreme Court had granted a temporary stay on the couple’s arrest on February 19.

TeestaSetalvad and her NGOs were ordered by the Supreme Court to provide the complete list of documents and details of donors. The information was requested by the Gujarat police probing the case.

Sounding a cautionary tone, the Supreme Court also allowed the Gujarat police to file an application for the cancellation of the couple’s bail, if they did not cooperate with the authorities in the present investigation.

Reserving its verdict on the question of granting anticipatory bail to TeestaSetalvad and JavedAnand, a bench of Justices DipakMisra and Adarsh Kumar Goel directed the Gujarat Police that the petitioners are not to be arrested in connection with the embezzlement case.

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Appearing for the petitioners, senior advocate KapilSibal asked the Court regarding the scope of the inquiry and whether it is to be limited to post-2007 donations received by the 2 trusts under probe for establishing a memorial for the 2002 riot victims or whether it will cover the NGOs work since 2002. However, the bench replied tersely stating that the present application judges the scope and grant of anticipatory bail along with respect to the FIR, hence nothing can be said about the total scope of the investigation at this moment.

The case has been mired in controversy regarding allegations of persecution at the hands of the Gujarat police floating around in the media. Earlier during the hearing, even the Supreme Court asked the Gujarat government as to the reason they needed the couple in custody for questioning. Since the said matter is a question of personal liberty, the Court affirmed the anticipatory bail plea of the couple.

In an earlier decision, the Gujarat High Court had refused relief to the couple in the same matter, pursuant to which the Gujarat police sought to arrest the couple. Another rare anomaly in the case was when the Chief Justice of India, H.L. Dattu, of his own accord, assigned the case to a different bench, even though the two judges initially assigned the case had made no move or shown any inclination to recuse themselves from the hearing.

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by Siddhartha Singh.