SC extends interim bail of Teesta, ask to cooperate in probe

SC extends interim bail of Teesta, ask to cooperate in probe

 Supreme Court today extended the interim bail of social activists Teesta Setalvad and her husband till March 18 but asked them to cooperate in the probe in two criminal cases of alleged embezzlement of funds and Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) lodged against them by the Gujarat Police and the CBI respectively.

CBI and the state police told a bench headed by Justice A R Dave that Teesta was not cooperating with the investigation and the couple was also not supplying relevant documents relating to the spending of funds.

While Gujarat police is probing the alleged embezzlement of funds for a museum at Ahmedabad's Gulbarg Society that was devastated in the 2002 riots, the CBI is investigating the purported violations of the FCRA in connection with the utilisation of funds received from Ford Foundation by Sabrang Communications and Publishing Pvt Ltd, run by the couple.

The submissions of Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar and senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani on behalf of CBI and the state police respectively was refuted by senior advocate Kapil Sibal and Kamini Jaiswal, who said the allegation of non- cooperation was being made against Teesta and her husband Javed Anand as the probe was not suiting the investigators.

Taking note of the submissions of both sides, the bench, also comprising Justices F M I Kalifulla and V Gopala Gowda, directed Teesta and Javed that if they have not supplied the relevant documents relating to the embezzlement case to Gujarat Police in accordance with the list provided to them by investigators through April 11, 2015 letter, they will "furnish those documents as soon as possible and preferrably within two weeks."

In the FCRA case, the bench asked the couple to file an affidavit within two weeks explaining their stand on the issue of utilisation of funds procured by Sabrang Communications and Publishing Pvt Ltd and posted both the cases for hearing on March 9.

At the outset, both CBI and the state police alleged that they were not getting cooperation from Teesta in their probe and the matter of anticipatory bail has been pending for almost a year.

"They are not special accused," Jethmalani said while seeking for early hearing of the matter. He said the couple also filed an application on May 6, 2015 in the pending anticipatory bail matter seeking to know the "scope of investigation."

Taking note of the submission, the bench orally observed "we will pass an appropriate order giving time for supply of documents and if the order is not complied with, we can even vacate our order (granting anticipatory bail)."

When Jaiswal refuted the charge, the bench said "you have to cooperate with the investigation. You should have known by this time which documents are with you and which are not."

The Solicitor General said in the FCRA case, CBI was seeking explanation for utilisation of funds received from the Ford Foundation but none of the over 4,700 documents provided related to the probe.

What the couple have given to the agency were vouchers relating to air travel, expenditure on wine, liquor, payments made to restaurants and hotels and documents about directors' emoluments, he said.

Sibal, who came in the middle of the hearing, said even under the Income Tax Act, the investigators cannot ask for documents for a long period of 2004 to 2016 and at best, they can go for documents of last eight years.

However, the bench said "they may be having books of account. You can say on affidavit that under the statute, you are not required to examine records of particular duration."
The bench also wanted to know that can under the Income Tax Act, after filing of balance sheets, other documents can be destroyed.

The Solicitor General said it is for Teesta to give all explanation.
Sibal said despite all the possibilities, he has asked the couple to cooperate in the investigation. An affidavit will be filed on behalf of them in the FCRA case explaining their stand, he added.

The apex court on December 1 last, had extended their interim bail till January 31.
The Gujarat High Court on February 12, 2015 had rejected their anticipatory bail in the fund embezzlement case which was stayed on the same day after the couple approached the apex court.

The CBI has contested the August 11, 2015 order of the Bombay High Court granting anticipatory bail to Teesta and her husband in the FCRA violation case, claiming the court had erred in giving relief after holding "prima facie" that they had violated the law.

Earlier too, the apex court had warned the couple that their failure to adhere to the conditions imposed by the High Court may lead to cancellation of their anticipatory bail granted in the FCRA violation case.

While the couple has denied all charges claiming they were being victimised for taking up the cause of riot victims, the agency held that 'prima facie' there was misuse of funds they had received from Ford Foundation for which they were "undoubtedly answerable" and the high court ought not have granted them anticipatory bail using its extraordinary discretionary powers.

Teesta has also challenged some remarks of the High Court, saying "the observations made by the High Court in para 8 of the impugned judgment are premature, misconceived and unjustified inasmuch as they have been recorded solely on the basis of the malicious allegations of the prosecution and without there being any relevant document or material on record, necessary to adjudicate upon the merits of the matter."

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