The Supreme Court on Friday granted interim bail to human rights defender Teesta Setalvad, who was arrested by the Gujarat police for allegedly fabricating evidence to target high state functionaries including Modi and Shah over the 2002 Muslim genocide in Gujarat.
A bench of Chief Justice of India U U Lalit and Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia directed that she be produced Saturday before the concerned trial court which shall release her on bail, subject to conditions that it may impose.
It also asked her to surrender her passport.
The court after hearing Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for Gujarat, and Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Setalvad, said it was not touching upon the merits of the matter.
“For the present purpose is in our considered view, following aspects of the matter which emerge from the record, are of some importance”, it said, and added that these were that “the applicant, a lady has been in custody since 25-6-2022”, that “the offences alleged against her pertain to the year 2002 and going by the assertions…concerned documents, were sought to be presented till the year 2012” and “the investigating machinery has had the advantage of custodial interrogation for a period of seven days. Thereafter judicial custody was ordered by concerned court”.
Top court went on to say: “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. The essential ingredients of the investigation including custodial interrogation having been completed, the matter assumes a complexion where the relief of interim bail, till the matter was considered by the High Court, was evidently made out”.
It said: “We are not therefore considering whether the appellant is released on bail or not. That issue will certainly be gone into by the high court in the pending application before it. We are considering the matter only from the standpoint whether during the pendency of such application, the custody of the appellant be insisted upon or whether she be granted the relief of interim bail”.
The bench said, “Having bestowed our attention to all the relevant aspects of the matter, in our view, the appellant is entitled to the relief of interim bail” and directed that she surrender her passport which it said “shall be kept in custody by the concerned court till the matter is considered by the HC in pending miscellaneous criminal application….”
“It is further made clear that the relief of interim bail is granted to the appellant in the peculiar facts, including the fact that she happens to be a lady. This shall not be taken to be a reflection and shall not be used by other accused, as and when such occasions arise. The submissions of the accused shall be considered purely on their own merits,” the court added.