New Delhi [India], September 1 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Thursday took objection to the conduct of the Gujarat High Court where it had issued notice to right activist Teesta Setalvad's plea on August 3 but posted the matter for further hearing after six weeks on September 19.
A bench of Chief Justice UU Lalit, Justice S Ravindra Bhat and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for Gujarat, "Give us a case where a lady is in confinement on charges like this and the High Court has given a date after six weeks. What is the normal pattern in bail cases like this?"
CJI further asked Solicitor General if this is the standard practice in Gujarat High Court.
"Give us instances where lady accused in such cases have got such dates from High Court. Either this lady has been made an exception. How can the court give this date? Is this standard practice in Gujarat," the bench observed.
To this, SG Mehta responded, "Ladies or gents, the dates are the same." He further added that "no lady has committed similar type of offences".
The bench which was inclined to grant interim bail to Setalvad today said it will hear this case tomorrow at 2 pm, after SG insisted that he wanted to argue more in the case.
The top court was hearing a petition of Setalvad seeking interim bail in a case in which she was arrested for allegedly fabricating documents to frame innocent people in the 2002 Gujarat riots cases.
During the hearing, the CJI said that there are "four or five features that bother us", first is that Setalvad has been under custody for over two months, secondly, the FIR was registered on the very next day of the Supreme Court dismissing Zakia Jafri's case and the FIR does not recite much anything other than the top court's observations.
"There is no offence in this case which comes with a rider that bail cannot be granted, like UAPA, POTA. These are normal IPC offences... These are not offences of bodily offences, these are offences of documents filed in court. In these matters, normal idea is, after the initial period of police custody, there is nothing which stops the investigators from conducting an investigation without custody... and over and above that, she is a lady. If I grant an interim bail and list the matter for September 19...," said the CJI who was inclined to grant interim bail to Setalvad.
Opposing the plea, SG told the bench, "I would argue it is more serious than a murder case."
Earlier, the top court filed an affidavit and told the apex court there is a strong case made out against Setalvad for some of the most serious offences whereby criminal conspiracy was hatched for and by fabricating false evidence with a clear intention to get a conviction of several persons for capital punishment 2002 Gujarat riots.
The affidavit of the Gujarat government has stated that the FIR against Setalvad for falsifying evidence related to the riots, is not solely based on a top court judgment but is backed by evidence.
Systematic efforts were made to ensure that both oral and other evidence is fabricated, the affidavit stated.
Setalvad has approached the top court against the August 3 order of the Gujarat High Court which issued notice to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) seeking its response to bail applications filed by Setalvad and former Gujarat Director General of Police (DGP) RB Sreekumar and posted the hearing on September 19.
Setalvad and Sreekumar had approached the High Court after their bail applications were rejected by the Ahmedabad city sessions court.
On July 30, the Ahmedabad sessions court refused to grant bail to Setalvad and Sreekumar while noting that the accused appeared to have aimed to "destabilise" the Gujarat government and defame the state for their ulterior motives.
They were arrested by the Ahmedabad Police Crime Branch on June 25 on the basis of a First Information Report (FIR) registered against them under sections 468 (forgery for cheating) and 194 (fabricating false evidence with intent to procure conviction for capital offences) of the Indian Penal Code.
The SIT formed to probe the case has alleged that Setalvad and Sreekumar were part of a larger conspiracy carried out at the behest of late Congress leader Ahmed Patel to destabilise the then Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by Narendra Modi who was the Chief Minister of Gujarat at the time.
Former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt is also an accused in the case.
The FIR against Setalvad, Sreekumar and Bhatt was registered after the Supreme Court had on June 24 dismissed the plea filed by Zakia Jafri, widow of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, challenging the clean chit given by the SIT to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several others in 2002 Gujarat riots.
Ehsan Jafri was among 69 people killed during the violence at Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002. Zakia Jafri has challenged the SIT's clean chit to 64 people including Narendra Modi who was the Gujarat Chief Minister during the riots in the State.
She had alleged a "larger conspiracy" behind the post-Godhra incident riots.
However, the SIT in the apex court had opposed the plea of Jafri saying there is a sinister plot behind the complaint to probe the "larger conspiracy" behind the 2002 Gujarat riots and the original complaint by Jafri was directed by Teesta Setalvad, who levelled allegations just to keep the pot boiling. (ANI)