Gujarat High Court rejects regular bail to Teesta Setalvad, orders her to surrender immediately

The court also rejected her lawyer's request of staying the order for approaching the Supreme Court. 
Last Updated : 01 July 2023, 14:12 IST

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The Gujarat High Court on Saturday rejected the regular bail application of Mumbai-based activist Teesta Setalvad and ordered her to surrender immediately in connection with the alleged fabrication of evidence and tutoring of witnesses in cases related to 2002 post-Godhra riots.

The court also rejected her lawyer's request of staying the order for approaching the Supreme Court. Sources in the Ahmedabad crime branch said they couldn't contact Setalvad but have sent messages informing her to surrender herself to the nearest police station in view of the order.

The High Court while dismissing her bail observed that prima facie there is evidence that she "influenced, threatened, gave false promises to the riot victims and filed false affidavits before various forums including Supreme Court" in an attempt to "unsettle democratically elected government to disrepute the image of then chief minister (currently prime minister Narendra Modi) and to see that he goes to jail."

The bench of Justice Nirzar Desai wrote, "enlarging a person, who allegedly acted at the behest of a political party, and tomorrow situation may raise that some outside force may utilise and convince a person to make efforts in similar line causing danger to Nation or to particular state by adopting the same modalities and, therefore, considering the totality of the fact and circumstances as also considering the fact that any such attempts may not take place in future, the bail application is required to be dismissed."

In the 127-page order, Justice Desai has stated that Setalvad is an "influential" person who is "closely associated with political leaders of Gujarat, Maharashtra" and also has roots in "Delhi" and has contacts with the people from all fields and fraternity." The order reads that she tried to "win-over the witnesses in a manner that suits her agenda and considering that the present applicant was funded freely by a political party and was assured of more funds if required, shows how influential she is."

"...if any leniency is shown to the applicant (Setalvad) and is enlarged on bail, there are ample chances that she may temper with the witnesses as she is a very influential person who has reached upto Padmashree, become member of planning commission as also considering the fact that if such person facing such kind of charges and having courage to file false affidavits before Supreme Court and to write letters to UNHRC Geniva (sic), in that case, enlarging such kind of person in democratic country everything would be so lenient that even if person go to extent of making efforts to unseat the then establishment and to disrepute the image of the then chief minister to extent to see that he is sent to jai, that will encourage others also to act in similar manner," the judge opined.

The order goes on to say that "prima facie it seems that those persons (victims of the riots) were not actually helped by the applicant but only with a view to gain personal and political benefits, the present applicant used them and collected huge funds in their names and ultimately person who started as a journalist in English newspaper by passage of time conveniently projected herself to a social leader and ultimately became the member of Planning Commission."

"In view of the aforesaid discussion, the present application stands dismissed. The applicant who is on interim bail is directed to surrender immediately," Justice Nirzar Desai ordered while rejecting her application.

Justice Desai stated, "Prima facie, this Court is of the view that, today, if the applicant like this is enlarged on bail, that will deepen and widen the communal polarisation as prima facie this Court is of the view that on one hand when we are heading towards the progress of the country with an effort to strengthen the communal harmony and brotherhood which would create an atmosphere which can accelerate and develop the progress of the country."

Setalvad was arrested on June 25 last year along with former Director General of Police, R B Sreekumar a day after Ahmedabad Crime Branch filed an FIR based on adverse remarks made by the apex court for allegedly fabricating evidence.

On September 3, Setalvad was released from Sabarmati Jail following an interim bail granted by the Supreme Court while her regular bail was pending in the Gujarat High Court. The Supreme Court bench led by then Chief Justice of India U U Lalit had questioned if such a timeline was normal in the court in bail matters.

Justice Desai concluded the hearing on her regular bail on June 21 and reserved for order. During the hearing, the state government had opposed Setalvad's bail application claiming that she was a "tool of a politician" who was tasked to defame and destabilize the then state government led by prime minister Narendra Modi.

The public prosecutor submitted in the high court that Setalvad received Rs 30 lakh from the politician, senior Congress leader late Ahmed Patel, and conspired with co-accused Sreekumar and jailed ex IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, to "propagate" the larger conspiracy behind the riots. The government argued that the claim of larger conspiracy was part of attempts to "destabilise" the then government.

The case against the activist and former policemen are based on an observation of the apex court while dealing with an appeal petition of Zakia Jafri who had claimed that there was a "larger conspiracy" behind the riots and accused the then chief minister Narendra Modi and over 60 others ministers, bureaucrats, among others for the violence. The apex court appointed-Special Investigation Team (SIT) gave a clean chit to all accused saying that there was no evidence.

The apex court while upholding the clean chit came down heavily on Setalvad and others while observing "those who had kept the pot boiling" with an "ulterior motive" for the past 16 years should be in the dock and be "proceeded with in accordance with the law".

A day later, an FIR was registered against Setalvad, Sreekumar, and Bhatt for allegedly fabricating witnesses' testimonies and creating evidence in many cases related to the riots.

Published 01 July 2023, 06:23 IST

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