The Supreme Court has formed a special bench to hear Teesta Setalvad’s plea challenging Gujarat High Court’s decision to deny her regular bail, and the matter will be heard tonight itself, on 1st July. A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court heard her plea earlier, but due to a lack of unanimous decision reached by the vacation bench comprising Justices Abhay S Oka and Prashant Kumar Mishra, interim relief was denied to Teesta Setalvad, and the bench referred the matter to the CJI to form a larger bench on the issue.
Accordingly, the CJI formed a special bench of Justices BR Gavai, AS Bopanna and Dipankar Datta to hear the interim bail case of Teesta Setalvad. The case will be heard by the special bench at 9:15 pm today, 1st July 2023. The controversial activist approached the Supreme Court after the Gujarat High Court earlier today rejected her regular bail plea in connection with the conspiracy case linked to the 2002 Gujarat riots.
In its order, the two-judge bench had said, “There is a disagreement between us on the question of grant of bail. So we request the Chief Justice to assign this matter to a larger bench.”
The bench primarily addressed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed by Setalvad, which challenged the Gujarat High Court’s today’s decision to reject her regular bail application. The High Court had accused her, based on an FIR filed by the state police, of forging documents to falsely implicate high-ranking government officials in connection with the 2002 Gujarat riots. Furthermore, the High Court ordered her to surrender without any delay.
During the special hearing, Justice Oka clarified from the beginning that the bench would not delve into the merits of the case at that moment. However, he expressed his opinion that considering the order was issued on a Saturday, the High Court could have allowed Setalvad some time before requiring her to surrender.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta provided an explanation for the High Court’s decision not to allow time for surrender. He said, “Setalvad had maligned the State, and it was Supreme Court that had indicated that she should be in the dock for her actions.”
In his oral observation, Justice Oka stated, “Matter may be listed on Tuesday, that’s what we are saying. Some time to surrender. Let us be very fair, some time should be granted for a higher court to examine. She was on interim bail since September last year. Heavens will not fall (if she is given some time to surrender). We are telling you something very reasonable. We have not decided anything. But we are also handicapped, we received paper books now.”
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said, “Please allow me to persuade the court…Please see how the entire State was maligned, witnesses tutored…She has taken the entire institution for a ride. Question of the majesty of the institution…The Supreme Court itself found some material against her and so the FIR was lodged against her, however, if your lordships think there is no material in the case, you can pass an order. For all that she has done…She may go to jail. If Your Lordships find that she has been wrongly taken into custody, she can always be released. That is the rule of law.”
Following a brief discussion between Justice Mishra and Justice Oka, the latter informed the involved parties that due to a disagreement regarding the granting of interim relief to Teesta Setalvad, an order was being issued to promptly refer the matter to Chief Justice DY Chandrachud for the formation of a larger bench.
On Saturday, July 1, the Gujarat High Court rejected the regular bail application of ‘activist’ Teesta Setalvad and ordered her to “surrender immediately.” The Gujarat High Court ruling came with regard to the alleged fabrication of evidence and tutoring of witnesses in cases concerning the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Setalvad has been shielded from arrest thus far by interim bail granted by the Supreme Court in September last year, after which she was released from judicial custody. Following this, she applied for regular bail at the Gujarat High Court, but the court denied the same.