A single judge bench of the Gujarat HC had rejected Setalvad’s bail plea on July 1 and ordered her to surrender immediately, forcing her to knock the doors of the apex court.
The three-judge SC bench of Justices Gavai, A S Bopanna and Dipankar Datta, which had earlier criticised the HC judge for not granting “sufficient time” to Setalvad to approach the SC, said on Wednesday, “To say the least, the findings of the single judge of the HC are totally perverse.”
While giving a two-hour hearing to Setalvad’s counsel Kapil Sibal and the Gujarat government represented by additional solicitor general S V Raju, Gavai said, “We generally decide most bail pleas within 15 minutes.”
The grant of bail means Setalvad will remain free during the period of trial in the case against her.
CJI Chandrachud had constituted a bench of Justices A S Oka and Prashant K Mishra to hear Setalvad’s bail plea, but with the two-judge bench differing, the CJI constituted a three-judge bench led by Justice B R Gavai, which granted her interim bail on the lines of similar relief given to her by a three-judge bench on September 2 last year.
The bench relied on the grounds quoted by the SC in its September 2, 2022, order granting interim bail to Setalvad — that a woman had been in custody from June 25 to July 3, 2022; the offences alleged against her related to 2002 and going by the assertions in the FIR, pertained to documents which were sought to be presented and/or relied upon till 2012; and the investigating machinery had the advantage of her custodial interrogation for seven days after which she was sent to judicial custody.
The only warning given by the SC to Setalvad was not to attempt influencing witnesses. “If she attempts to influence witnesses, the prosecution can move the SC directly to seek cancellation of her bail,” the bench said as a consolation to the Gujarat government which tried its best to project the offence — attempting to implicate high functionaries in murder cases — as grave.
The FIR against her said, “There is material in the final report submitted by the SIT which indicates that Teesta Setalvad had conjured concocted forged fabricated facts and documents and/or evidence, including fabrication of documents by persons who were prospective witnesses of the complainant. It is not only a case of fabrication of documents, but also of influencing and tutoring witnesses and making them depose on pre-typed affidavits.” The SIT was appointed by the SC to probe riot cases.
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