The order was passed by a bench of Chief Justice of India Uday Umesh Lalit and Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia after Setalvad moved the top court against a Gujarat High Court order which had given a long adjournment in Setalvad’s bail plea while not passing any order of interim bail.
“It must be said that matter is still pending before High Court. We are, therefore, not considering whether Setalvad is released on bail or not and High Court shall decide the same. We are only on during pendency of such application, should the custody of appellant be insisted upon or be granted interim bail. Thus we grant Teesta Setalvad interim bail,” the Court ordered.
The Supreme Court said that the Gujarat High Court should have considered the application for interim bail during pendency of the matter since custodial interrogation had been complete.
“The essential ingredient of custodial interrogation being completed the matter of interim bail should have been heard,” the apex court opined.
While granting interim bail, the Court noted that Setalvad was in police custody for 7 days and thereafter in judicial custody.
“Following aspects have emerged. Appellant a lady has been in custody since June 25. Offences alleged pertain to the period from 2002-2012. This is going by assertions, at best the concerned documents date to 2012. Investigating machinery had the advantage of custodial interrogation for 7 days followed by judicial custody,” the Court observed.
It, therefore, proceeded to grant interim to Setalvad.
“Setalvad shall be produced before concerned court and she shall be released on interim bail with conditions as the court thinks fit. Appellant shall surrender her passport in the concerned court till the High Court decides her bail application,” the top court directed.
During the hearing of the matter yesterday, the Court had asked the State of Gujarat to produce details of cases/ precedents in which the Gujarat High Court has given long adjournments as was done in the present bail plea.
Setalvad’s plea before High Court is listed for hearing on September 19 and she cited the long adjournment to move the top court.
When the matter was taken up today, Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta produced orders passed by High Courts in which long dates were given.
He said that Setalvad was not singled out and this has been the uniform practice in High Court in similar cases.
“I will show what High Court does uniformly with others. A week before this case, there were 124 cases and on the date of this order there were 168 cases. Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court has introduced auto list methodIt was not like the petitioner was singled out and the case was posted after 6 weeks. Here is an order of a lady Saiyeda Bibi etc where dates are in October,” he said.
On the merits of allegations against Setalvad, the SG said there is sufficient material apart from FIR pointing towards involvement of appellant in the offences alleged.
In this regard, he said that there are witness statements clearly making out a case against Setalvad.
“I am submitting two statements under Section 161 and Section 164 CrPC before you which reveals a prima facie case against the accused and how it was done with a motive,” he said.
He also contended that Setalvad has maligned the Gujarat government and judiciary.
“This lady has maligned the entire State, the State judiciary, the High court. you cannot say something like this behind the back of Gujarat High Court judge.”
Senior Counsel Kapil Sibal, appearing for Setalvad, rebutted the arguments including the witness statements cited by the SG.
“This person who is the witness has gone to all courts where trial was being conducted so that his statement is recorded. This was also influenced. Court had dismissed his statement. In Naroda Gam case court noted that the intention of statement was different. Then the statement by him Gulberg case was also dismissed and he was restrained from making statements. These are the Section 164 statements given to you,” Sibal said.
He also maintained that Setalvad has been targeted because she acted against the State.
“Basically I am motivated, NHRC is motivated. This matter came to this court and relief was granted. The matter is pending. SG Mehta should have told matter is pending. There is no allegation that I have tampered with any witness statement ever,” he stated.