Supreme Court stays Gujarat High Court’s order and grants interim bail to Teesta Setalvad

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On July 01, 2023, at a special sitting on Saturday night, the Supreme Court granted interim bail to social activist Teesta Setalvad. An FIR was lodged against her for fabricating documents to implicate high government functionaries in the 2002 Gujarat riots. The bench stayed the order of the Gujarat High Court that dismissed her interim bail application and asked her to surrender. While giving this order, the bench considered the September 2022 Supreme Court’s order granting interim bail to Setalvad. The matter was heard by Justices AS BopannaDipankar Dutta, and BR Gavai. The bench observed, “In that view of the matter, without considering anything on merits of the matter, finding that the learned Single Judge was not correct in granting even some protection, we grant stay of the impugned order passed by the High Court for a period of one week from today.” 

During the proceedings, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta highlighted the seriousness of Setalvad’s crime stating that “She started a campaign making false allegations. The riot did take place, and people from both communities were killed. But, she saw an opportunity and came to this court with false allegations. A special investigation team was constituted by the Supreme Court and operated under its monitoring. This SIT has received pre-types and pre-signed statements. The witnesses later told the statements by this same petitioner…The petitioner has filed false affidavits, and tutored witnesses. She also started collecting money for riot victims. The entire nation was maligned, not only inside the country but outside the country, by the petitioner. It is not a question of one individual. These offences are against the integrity of the nation.”

The bench was not in favor of this argument and said, “Mr. Solicitor, her conduct might be reprehensible. The only question is whether the person is not entitled to interim bail.” After hearing certain arguments, the bench observed that the petition was filed with ulterior motives. Considering this, Justice Gavai said, “It was understandable if the court had merely said the conduct of the petitioner was not worthy…but to directly say they should be put in the dock…” Mehta replied, “Are we hearing an appeal against the three-judge bench judgment of this Court?” He added, “This is not an ordinary case. This is somebody who takes every institution for a ride. Somebody who writes to International organizations in Geneva, maligning the country.”

After considering all the arguments made by SG and senior advocates, Justice Gavai said “We are sorry to say the single judge was totally wrong in not granting interim protection even for one week. When this Court has granted interim bail, extending it by a week would have been ideal.” The bench further stayed the High Court’s order to take Setalvad into custody for a week and agreed to give her interim bail.