NEW DELHI, Sept 2 : A day after expressing concern at delay by Gujarat High Court on hearing activist Teesta Setalvad's bail plea, the Supreme Court on Friday granted her interim bail.
Setalvad was arrested for allegedly fabricating documents to frame high-ranking officials, including then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, in the 2002 riots cases in the state, and was in custody since June 25.
A bench, headed by Chief Justice U.U. Lalit and comprising Justices S. Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia, said that since the essential custodial interrogation is complete, the matter of interim bail should have been heard, and noted that her bail plea is still pending before the Gujarat High Court.
"We grant Teesta Setalvad interim bail," the bench said. It also directed Setalvad to surrender her passport in the trial court and made it clear that the high court will decide her regular bail plea without being influenced by its order.
The top court directed that she be produced on Saturday before the concerned trial court which shall release her on bail, subject to conditions that it may impose.
During the hearing, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Setalvad, submitted that authorities concerned are deeply interested that his client never comes out on bail. "I am the state's number 1 enemy," said Sibal.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Gujarat government, opposed Sibal's submissions and argued that Setalvad was capable of influencing the witnesses in the case.
At this, Sibal replied: "How can she be more powerful than the state...", and emphasised that facts narrated in the FIR against his client are nothing but repetition of proceedings which ended with apex court's judgment on June 24, and the no offence was made out against her.
Mehta urged the apex court not to set a "very bad precedent" by giving extraordinary treatment to Setalvad, when the high court is already seized of the case.
After hearing detailed arguments, the top court said the applicant, "a lady", has been in custody since June 25 and the offences alleged against her pertain to 2002, and also documents cited were till 2012 . It added that the investigating machinery has had the advantage of custodial interrogation of 7 days and after that she was sent to judicial custody.
"Having considered the circumstances on record, in our view, the high court ought to have considered the prayer for release on interim bail during the pendency of the matter," noted the bench. It further added that relief of interim bail should have been granted, till the matter was considered by the high court. (IANS)
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