In a series of dramatic events involving multiple constitutional court benches, the Supreme Court has granted activist Teesta Setalvad protection from arrest for a week. The decision comes after a specially constituted three-judge bench was formed due to a difference of opinion among the judges on the previous bench. Setalvad is facing charges of falsifying evidence in the 2002 Gujarat riots case.
Earlier on Saturday, the Gujarat High Court dismissed Setalvad’s regular bail plea and denied her request for interim bail for 30 days to approach the Supreme Court. Faced with the high court’s order, Setalvad urgently sought a hearing from the top court, which convened on a court holiday to consider her case. However, the two-judge bench failed to reach a consensus, leading to the matter being referred to a larger bench of three judges.
The three-judge bench, led by Justice BR Gavai, expressed concern over the urgency displayed by the high court in denying Setalvad even a week’s protection. The bench questioned the need for such haste and emphasized the importance of preserving an individual’s liberty. It stayed the Gujarat High Court order for a week, granting Setalvad interim relief.
Teesta Setalvad, along with former IPS officer RB Sreekumar, was arrested last year on charges of fabricating evidence, forgery, and conspiracy related to framing Prime Minister Narendra Modi and others in the 2002 communal riots cases in Gujarat. The Supreme Court had previously reproached Setalvad and others for their intention to “keep the pot boiling” and called for a thorough investigation into their actions.
While the Gujarat High Court rejected Setalvad’s bail plea, citing her alleged use of riot victims and witnesses for personal gain and attempts to destabilize the democratically elected government, the Supreme Court highlighted the previous bench’s grant of interim bail, considering the relevant factors, including her gender and the duration of her custody.
The Supreme Court’s decision to protect Setalvad from arrest for a week and refer the matter to the Chief Justice of India for placement before a regular bench comes after a day of intense legal proceedings. The case against Setalvad stems from a larger conspiracy allegation involving 64 individuals, including Narendra Modi, in a complaint filed by Zakia Jafri, the widow of former Congress member of Parliament Ehsan Jafri who was killed in the riots.
The Supreme Court had been monitoring the probe into the 2002 riots cases and had directed the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to examine the allegations. The recent events surrounding Setalvad’s arrest and the differing opinions among the judges have sparked significant attention and raised important questions about the preservation of individual liberties and the pursuit of justice in sensitive cases.
As the legal proceedings continue, the case is expected to be heard by a regular bench when the Supreme Court reconvenes after a six-week-long summer break on July 3. The developments in Setalvad’s case will undoubtedly have implications for the ongoing discourse surrounding the 2002 Gujarat riots and the pursuit of justice for the victims.
Sources By Agencies