Activist Teesta Setalvad, in jail since June over allegations of “a conspiracy to destabilise the Gujarat government after the 2002 riots”, today got interim bail from the Supreme Court, which said the police had already got enough time to interrogate her.
The court’s tone was consistent with its comments yesterday, when it said there is “no offence in this case over court which bail cannot be granted”, that too when “she is a lady”.
She’d gone to the Gujarat High Court, which on August 3 posted the bail plea to six weeks later — something the top court didn’t particularly appreciate in its order today. That plea for regular bail will, however, continue to be heard by the High Court. “The HC ought to have considered the plea for interim bail during the pendency of the matter,” the bench, led by Chief Justice UU Lalit, observed today.
The very case against her is also connected to Supreme Court observations, of June 24. She was arrested just two days after the court junked a plea by her and Zakia Jafri — whose husband Ehsan Jafri, a former MP, was killed in the riots — in which they’d challenged a probe that cleared PM Narendra Modi, the then Chief Minister, of any wrongdoing.
The plea was “to keep the pot boiling, obviously, for ulterior design”, the bench had then remarked. Further citing the state’s arguments, it had said, “As a matter of fact, all those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law.”
This was used by the police as a basis for the FIR against Ms Setalvad.
But the FIR has nothing more than the court observations to stand on, according to her lawyer, Kapil Sibal. She’s accused of forging documents to file cases over the 2002 riots, but the police have not specified which documents, he told the Supreme Court yesterday. Cops also say she exploited Ms Jafri’s emotions, though Ms Jafri hasn’t said no such thing.
While granting bail today, the court noted that the allegations relate to the 2002-12 period. “The investigation agency has had the advantage of custodian interrogation for seven days,” said the three-judge bench, comprising Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia besides the CJI. She was in jail for more than two months, yet no chargesheet has been filed, the bench had said yesterday.
Now, Ms Setalvad is to be released after bail formalities — she has to submit her passport — for which she “should be produced before the concerned court as early as possible,” the bench ruled, saying that she must cooperate with the investigation.