No anticipatory bail but interim protection to Teesta: SC

No anticipatory bail but interim protection to Teesta: SC

The Supreme Court today refused to grant anticipatory bail to social activist Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand but extended interim protection from arrest till March end in a case lodged against them in Ahmedabad for alleged embezzlement of funds.

The couple had approached the apex court against the January 31 order of the Bombay High Court which had given them only interim protection for four weeks till February 28 with a direction to approach the Gujarat High Court for anticipatory bail.

Teesta and her husband have been booked by the Crime Branch of Gujarat Police on the charges of cheating, breach of trust and under the IT Act, in a matter related to construction of "Museum of resistance" in the Gulbarg society in Ahmedabad which was hit by communal riot in 2002.

The apex court said it was not inclined to interfere with the Bombay High Court order and also asked the Gujarat Government not to "sensationalise" the case. "We are not inclined to interfere with the order of the Bombay High Court. 

However, we extend the interim protection from February 28 to March 31. The petitioners can file petition in Gujarat High Court for anticipatory bail which has to be heard independently without being influenced by the observation made by the Bombay High Court," a bench comprising justices S J Mukhopadhaya and Kurian Joseph said.

The bench said it will be open for the Bombay High Court to go into the question of law that whether anticipatory bail can be entertained in the cases registered in different state.
At the outset, the bench told Setalvad's counsel Sanjay Parekh that it cannot interfere with the High Court order and was ready to extend the interim protection so that they can move the Gujarat High Court.

"You are fighting all other cases in Gujarat. If you can come to Delhi why can't you go to Gujarat," the bench said adding that "in Gujarat also, you have the best of the judiciary"."We don't want to make any comment. It is only the matter of anticipatory bail. You are litigant like any other litigant before us. You do what High Court of Bombay has said," the bench said.

It also took exception to the Gujarat Government opposing the plea of Setalvad before the notice being issued to the state.

"Why are you so much against the petitioner. Why are you opposing when no notice has been issued. Don't make it a sensational case," the bench said when Gujarat Government's counsel Meenakshi Lekhi opposed the plea of Setalvad saying the High Court had already given them protection. Parekh said the stand of the state government shows how they are treating the case.

One of the riot victims from Gulbarg housing society, which was burnt during the 2002 post Godhra riots, had lodged a complaint with the Ahmedabad Police against Teesta, Anand and the NGOs run by them - Citizens for Justice and Peace and Sabrang Trust alleging misappropriation of funds to the tune of Rs 1.51 crores by them.

According to the complaint, the accused persons had allegedly collected funds in the name of converting part of the Gulbarg society into a museum and had allegedly misappropriated funds worth Rs 1.51 crores.

They contended that they have been implicated in the case and are victims of political vendetta. They claimed that they are being targeted by the perpetrators of the riots.

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