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PoliticsIndiaTeesta Setalvad vs Jeetendra Tyagi: Supreme contrasts in dealing with bail applications

Teesta Setalvad vs Jeetendra Tyagi: Supreme contrasts in dealing with bail applications

The Supreme Court today granted interim bail to leftist rights activist Teesta Setalvad in connection with the FIR for allegedly fabricating evidence in the 2002 Gujarat riots cases. Gujarat Police’s anti-terrorism wing had arrested the activist on 25 June.

The Supreme Court asked the Gujarat High Court to decide the final bail plea, but Setalvad will be released in the meantime. The apex court ordered her release by tomorrow without insisting on local surety.

A bench of CJI Uday Umesh Lalit, Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia ordered the bail.

The Supreme Court further directed Setalvad to surrender her passport and cooperate with the investigation. The apex court clarified that the order had been made from the standpoint of considering her interim bail until her appeal seeking bail was pending before the high court and was not an expression of the case's merits.

Yesterday, forgetting how the judiciary had delayed the hearing for the bail application of Waseem Rizvi-turned-Jeetendra Tyagi for 4 months, the apex court asked the high court why there was a delay in the listing of Setalvad's bail plea, wondering whether "this lady has been made an exception" and asking the state government to furnish information about any such precedent.

After Setalvad's bail plea was dismissed by a local court in Ahmedabad in July, she had moved the Gujarat High Court, which on 3 August listed her plea to a date six weeks later — a timeline the apex court did not appreciate in its order today. "The high court ought to have considered the plea for interim bail during the pendency of the matter," said the Supreme Court bench, led by Chief Justice UU Lalit, in its observations today.

There is "no offence in this case over the court which bail cannot be granted", that too when "she is a lady", the Supreme Court said while granting Setalvad bail. Her petition for regular bail and quashing of the FIR will continue to be in the high court, though.

A day before the activist's arrest, the Supreme Court had junked a plea of Zakia Jafri — whose husband Ehsan Jafri, a former MP, was killed in the riots — and Setalvad in which they had challenged the findings of an investigation that cleared Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the then chief minister, of any culpability.

This plea was "to keep the pot boiling, obviously, for ulterior design", the Supreme Court had then remarked, citing the state's arguments. It also said, "All those involved in such abuse of process need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with (the) law."

Teesta Setalvad has been accused of hatching "a conspiracy to destabilise the Gujarat government after the 2002 riots".

The police used the 24 June observations by the highest court of the country as a basis for the FIR against Ms Setalvad. "But the FIR has nothing more than the court observations," according to her lawyer, Kapil Sibal. She is accused of forging documents to file cases related to the 2002 riots, but the police have not specified which documents, he told the court yesterday. Cops even say she exploited an elderly Zakia Jafri's emotions, though Jafri hasn't said such a thing, Sibal argued.

While granting bail today, the court noted that the allegations relate to the 2002-12 period. "The investigation agency has had the advantage of custodian interrogation for seven days," said the three-judge bench, comprising Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia besides the CJI.

She was in jail for more than two months, yet no charge sheet has been filed, the bench said yesterday.

In contrast, 4 days ago, the Supreme Court had refused to extend the interim bail granted to Jitendra Narayan Singh Tyagi, formerly known as Waseem Rizvi, in connection with the investigation into the hate speeches at the Hardiwar Dharma Sansad held in December last year.

That was a bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and BV Nagarathna that declined to extend the interim bail of Tyagi and asked him to surrender before 5 September. The apex court posted the matter for hearing on 9 September and asked Tyagi to produce the certificate of surrender before it by 5 September.

"He (Tyagi) is on (an) interim medical, right? Go and surrender first. He isn’t a senior citizen, he is 51. He should spend at least 7 days in custody,” the bench observed.

On 17 May, the top court had granted three months of interim bail to Tyagi on medical grounds. He was asked to give an undertaking that he would not indulge in 'hate speech' and not issue any statement via electronic, digital or social media. Before that, his bail application had gone unheard for 4 months.

The court had also asked Tyagi that harmony had to be maintained in the society. It did not say today whether tampering with evidence and tutoring witnesses to communal riots, which Setalvad is accused of, maintains harmony in society.

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